Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: With the new Coen Brothers film, Inside Llewyn Davis, headed for theaters, we’ve lined up a week of movies about musicians.
Cameron Crowe situates romance within the burgeoning ’90s Seattle music scene in Singles, a 1992 drama that captures the “grunge” era in all its flannel-and-Doc Martens glory. Beloved in large part because of a soundtrack featuring exclusive cuts from (among others) Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice In Chains—all of whom appear in both concert footage and, in the first two bands’ cases, in small acting parts—Crowe’s follow-up to Say Anything… concerns two couples struggling to figure out just what they want. Coffee shop waitress Janet (Bridget Fonda) is in love with flaky long-haired rocker Cliff (Matt Dillon), whose lack of responsibility is a constant hindrance to relationship growth. Their up-in-the-air status is paralleled with that of Steve (Campbell Scott) and Linda (Kyra Sedgwick), who meet at a club show and soon fall head over heels for each other, at least until complications arise that threaten their future together.
Crowe’s ear for dialogue remains the key to his story’s dramatic success, and his portrait of his overcast Seattle milieu feels natural and comfortable—less like a tourist’s vision of the metropolis than a loving portrait made by an insider. His cast also helps sell roles that, especially in Dillon’s case, now clearly resonate as era-specific “types,” with Scott and Sedgwick exhibiting an easygoing chemistry that makes the proceedings more than simply a procession of grunge cameos. And yet, the film’s power comes in large part from its familiarity with, and fondness for, the musicians it showcases, be it Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell showing up for some amusing reaction shots while listening to a car radio, or Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard, and Jeff Ament goofing around as the other members of Cliff’s band, Citizen Dick. The affection is so heartfelt that it’s contagious, and ultimately extends to Seattle at large, as epitomized by a fantastic sex-scene gag involving the city’s reigning basketball star, Supersonics power forward Xavier McDaniel.
Availability: Singles is available on DVD, which can be obtained through Netflix, and to rent or purchase through the major digital services.