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Sunset Strip


Sunset Strip

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Almost Famous' relative lack of cynicism was one of its many laudable aspects: After a decade and a half of misanthropic, Spinal Tap-derived comedies, it was refreshing to see a film that addressed rock music with warmth and empathy rather than hip disdain. But a lack of cynicism can only take a film so far, judging from Sunset Strip, an earnest comedy-drama that aspires to be an Altman-esque look at the rock scene in early-'70s California, but ends up feeling more like a VH1 version of Boogie Nights. Set in 1972, Sunset Strip focuses on a strangely homogeneous group of rock stars, hangers-on, and wannabes congregating around the titular street, including hard-living songwriter Rory Cochrane, hapless wannabe rock star Nick Stahl, and Simon Baker, a colorblind photographer nursing a secret crush on rock-star-crazy collaborator Anna Friel. Sunset Strip follows its L.A. scenesters through 24 hours of their lives, as they hurt each other, leave crucial sentiments unspoken, and generally stumble to their requisite epiphanies. Like many films with sprawling casts, overlapping storylines, and generation-defining ambition, Sunset Strip sacrifices depth for breadth, offering up characters who are little more than colorful abstractions—the sum total of their hairstyles, loud outfits, and enthusiastic debaucheries. The film's vision of the '70s seems derived solely from Rolling Stone covers and condescending films about the era, encompassing warmed-over sexual experimentation, leather-pants-sporting rock gods, and widespread consumption of booze and drugs. Perhaps to distract viewers from its characters' flimsiness, Sunset Strip lays on the period detail extra-thick: Its black characters, for example, don't sport mere Afros, but towering, skyward-reaching Afros accompanied by cartoonish sideburns and appropriately hideous matching outfits. Sunset Strip's ambition is admirable, but in its attempts to disguise its facile narrative, it ends up looking and feeling like an elaborate '70s-themed costume party.