By: Nevra Azerkan
If you thought that the movie CBGB was about the iconic New York club that Hilly Kristal opened back in 1973, you would be correct. The film stars an incredible cast including the phenomenal Alan Rickman as Hilly Kristal.
Kristal is shown as having difficulty maintaining a business and having to file for bankruptcy multiple times. After securing a loan from his mother, Bertha (Estelle Harris), he opens a club on the Bowery that will play Country, Bluegrass and Blues (CBGB) music. Clearly, things didn’t go as planned and instead CBGB’s became the place where underground rock and punk acts began playing before reaching super-stardom. Hilly saw something in each of the bands that he booked and his only stipulation was that they were not allowed to play any cover songs, only originals. Some of the acts that played there and that are shown in the film are: The Police, Dead Boys, The Ramones, Talking Heads, Television and Blondie. Due to the popularity of these acts, Hilly Kristal was deemed the Godfather of Punk.
Alan Rickman does an amazing job portraying Kristal, a man with a vision, but with little concern for the necessities and every day transactions especially those dealing with money. There were times were you respected how much he believed in music, but then others were you were so frustrated with his lack of common sense and personal well-being. Aside from Rickman, I thought Freddy Rodriguez (as Idaho) and Richard de Klerk (as Taxi) were quite the scene stealers. They had many memorable moments and made their characters very likable or maybe I just have a thing for bums, who knows.
Another tidbit is Taylor Hawkins from the Foo Fighters plays Iggy Pop and Mickey Sumner, Sting’s daughter, plays Patti Smith. I mean…you have to have some sort of rock royalty in a movie like this, right?
Overall, CBGB is a fun film to watch especially if you’re a fan of that music scene. It was cool to see how the club got started and I enjoyed how they incorporated the comic-strip panels that were inspired by Punk magazine. The film ends with a run-down of what happened to each person and band, followed by a video of the real Talking Heads thanking Kristal at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. There are some inaccuracies that are being brought up (like Iggy Pop not playing there), but tell me what movie based on a true story gets everything right—not many. So, if you can overlook things like that then all you need to do is just rock out to the music and pretend you were there when these influential bands were discovered.