Saturday, June 15, 2013
School of Rock
Directed by Richard Linklater and written by Mike White, School of Rock is the story about an unemployed rock musician who pretends to be a substitute teacher for a prestigious prep school as he decides to teach the children rock n’ roll and form a band so he can win a battle of the bands contest and pay his rent. The film is a comedy that explores a man’s desire to do right for his friend while teaching young kids the power of music and how it can shape their minds. Starring Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Miranda Cosgrove, and Sarah Silverman. School of Rock is a rocking and fantastic film from Richard Linklater.
The film is just a simple story about an unemployed rock musician named Dewey Finn (Jack Black) who has just been kicked out of his band and needs to pay the rent or else he’s going to be kicked out by his friend Ned Schneebly (Mike White). By pretending to be Ned after hearing a message to be a substitute teacher for a prestigious upstate New York elementary prep school, Dewey deals with its strict rules until he learns about that the kids in his class are also in a music class. By teaching them the etiquettes of rock n’ roll, he finds the idea to make them his new band so he can win an upcoming battle of the bands contest and pay his rent. While it’s a story that might seem formulaic and silly, what makes it so engaging is the fact that it’s about a guy who bonds with some kids over not just music but also finding reasons into the idea of learning.
Mike White’s screenplay is actually far more interesting than what its premise suggests as it’s not just a film about rock n’ roll but also a film about a guy trying to find his role in life to mean something but still maintain that sense of love and passion for music. While Dewey Finn is sort of a man-child who doesn’t want to grow up and refuses to give up his rock n’ roll dreams. He becomes a much more well-rounded person by taking on this job as a substitute teacher where he not only helps out kids who feel stifled by the upbringing they’re in. He also gives them a reason to have some fun and act like kids while being able to learn along the way.
It’s not just the character of Dewey and the kids that really help the script be engaging. There are supporting characters like Dewey’s friend Ned and the school principal Rosalie Mullins who are just as interesting as well. Ned is someone who used to play rock n’ roll but had to give it up in order to get a real job as he’s constantly berated by his girlfriend Patti (Sarah Silverman). There’s a moment late in the film where Dewey admits to his actions and feels bad about what he does but he tells Ned that he couldn’t give up on his dreams like Ned did. What Ned reveals is that his sacrifice to give up music wasn’t easy as well into why there’s a bit of melancholia to his character. The Mullins character might seem like a typical figure of authority who has to run things but there’s more to her as she’s a woman who wants to change things for the school to make things better and actually make it less stifling for the children.
Richard Linklater’s direction is definitely lively in the way he explores the world of rock n’ roll as well as prep school life where he adds this element of fun into the entire story. While there are moments where things can get wild, it is told with some restraint in which Linklater is able to get his actors to tone things down a bit while having the kids just act naturally. Since it’s also a kids film, Linklater has the story be told from the perspective of kids as they’re being taught by Dewey who is sort of a child. Yet, Dewey knows that kids can go into the wrong places where Dewey has to play the adult of sorts.
The direction has Linklater also creating some compositions that are simple and direct but also have this sense of being very energetic and lively. Even in some of the more low-key dramatic moments where Linklater knows where to put the actors in the frame. The film climax is the Battle of the Bands concert where there are elements of humor but it’s more about a sense of celebration and all of the good aspects about what rock n’ roll is all about. Having fun. Linklater not only does that but he makes it so much more where it’s not just a film that rock fans can love but also a film that families can enjoy where it’s both educational but also entertaining. Overall, Linklater crafts a very exciting and exhilarating film about rock n’ roll and learning about the music that will make any kid do Pete Townshend windmill guitar power chords.
Cinematographer Rogier Stoffers does excellent work with some of the lighting where it‘s very straightforward for many of the film‘s interior and exterior scenes with the exception of the lighting display for the climatic concert. Editor Sandra Adair does amazing work with the editing to not just capture the energy of the comedy and the rock n‘ roll moments but also in creating a montage to display rock n‘ roll‘s rich history. Production designer Jeremy Conway, along with set decorator Karin Wiesel and art director Adam Scher, do wonderful work with the set pieces from the look of the prep school and Battle of the Bands stage to the apartment Dewey and Ned live in.
Costume designer Karen Patch does fantastic work with the costumes from the look of the school uniforms to the clothes the kids wear for the climatic show. Sound editor Jacob Ribicoff does nice work with the sound to capture some of the intimacy of the classrooms as well as the atmosphere of the rock concert. The film’s music by Craig Wedren is terrific as it‘s low-key with its emphasis on rock while the film‘s soundtrack that is assembled by music supervisor Randall Poster is a mish-mash of all sorts of music ranging from acts like the Ramones, Kiss, AC/DC, the Clash, David Bowie, Stevie Nicks, Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, the Velvet Underground, and Led Zeppelin. The soundtrack also features some original music by Jack Black in collaboration with Mike White and Craig Wedren to capture Dewey’s passion for rock n’ roll.
The casting by Ilene Starger is brilliant for the ensemble that is created including the young kids that appear in this film. The film features cameo appearances from Frank Whaley as a battle of the bands director and the Mooney Suzuki as a band auditioning for a spot as well as small performances from Adam Pascal and Lucas Babin as Dewey’s former bandmates. Notable performances as the kids in Dewey’s class that include Cole Hawkins, Angelo Massagli, James Hosey, Zachary Infante, Brian Falduto, Aleisha Allen, and Caitlin Hale where they all play a part in helping with the look and style of the band. In the role of the School of Rock band, there’s Maryam Hassan as the soulful Tomika aka Songbird, Robert Tsai as the shy keyboardist Lawrence aka Mr. Cool, Rebecca Brown as the bassist Katie aka Posh Spice, Kevin Clark as drummer Freddy “Spazzy McGee” Jones, and Joey Gaydos Jr. as virtuoso guitarist Zack “Zack-Attack” Mooneyham as they all give great performances.
Miranda Cosgrove is wonderful as the school brainiac Summer “Tinkerbell” Hathaway as the student who helps Dewey out in handling some of the business stuff as well as being his organizer. Sarah Silverman is terrific as Ned’s bitchy girlfriend Patti who hates Dewey as she constantly bullies Ned into being an adult. Mike White is excellent as Ned Schneebly as a guy who loves to teach but has a hard time dealing with Dewey’s inability to grow up while admitting to the sacrifices he’s made in being an adult. Joan Cusack is superb as Principal Mullins as a woman who wants to create an environment for kids to learn but also not make it stifling as she is trying to deal with all of the restrictions she’s working while finding a chance to loosen up during a meeting with Dewey.
Finally, there’s Jack Black in a marvelous performance as Dewey Finn where Black is full of energy and charisma as a man-child who loves to rock where he takes his friend’s substitute teacher gig and finally finds a place where he can grow up but also still be a kid. It’s a performance where Black is not only funny but also shows that he does have some range as an actor where he can be a bit serious. Plus, it’s a performance where Black can show his love for rock while being the kind of guy that kids and adults can just love to watch as it’s definitely one of his career-defining performances.
School of Rock is an outstanding film from Richard Linklater that features a monstrous yet exciting performance from Jack Black. Along with notable supporting performances from Mike White and Joan Cusack as well as smart script from White and a fun soundtrack. It’s a film that doesn’t just capture the energy of rock n’ roll but also make it engaging enough where it appeals to the hardcore rock fans as well as kids and their parents. It’s a rare family film that isn’t afraid to be a bit educational but also make it compelling enough for kids to enjoy. In the end, School of Rock is a magnificent from Richard Linklater that takes it up to 11 and have kids bang on the drums like Keith Moon or Neil Peart. Rock out the guitar like Jimi Hendrix or Angus Young. Slappin da bass like Geddy Lee! Belt out those vocals like Aretha, Janis, or Freddie Mercury! It’s a film that displays what rock n’ roll is all about!!!! Having a good time and giving salute to those that love to rock!!!!
Richard Linklater Films: It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books - Slacker - Dazed & Confused - Before Sunrise - subUrbia - The Newton Boys - Waking Life - Tape - Before Sunset - Bad News Bears (2005 film) - A Scanner Darkly - Fast Food Nation - Me and Orson Welles - Bernie (2011 film) - Before Midnight - Boyhood - Everybody Want Some!! - The Auteurs #57: Richard Linklater Pt. 1 - Pt. 2
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