Saving the Empire
I was 23 the first time I watched "Empire Records" probably just outside of its target market and that maybe why I didn't get it, in fact I wondered why anyone would watch it. I've seen it a few times since and each time it has grown on me a little bit more, the diverse characters and performances have become more entertaining as has the strange comedy and the numerous musical interludes. But I still think "Empire Records" is still a rather strange movie because whilst we have a day in the life of the staff in a record store it is little more than a collection of stories revolving around individuals, thrown together in such a way that whilst they may interlink still feel separate. Basically "Empire records" becomes a movie you don't watch for the story but for the entertainment, the music, the quirky characters and the humour.
What should be just another day in the life of the staff at Empire Records turns into a day they will never forget. Not only do they discover that the independent record store is at threat of being sold to a chain of soulless music stores but each member of staff has a crisis going on. Can everyone sort out their problems and join together to save the Empire; well they will certainly have fun trying.
Now it has to be said that the first time you watch "Empire Records" it is easy to be under whelmed because it doesn't really have a proper story. Okay so we have the central storyline of owner Mitch wanting to sell out to a chain of music stores and the manager Joe and the staff being against it but it is really just the backdrop for what happens. As to what happens are several little storylines from the depressed Debra showing up and shaving her hair off, Corey wanting to have sex for the first time with sex god pop star Rex, A.J. wanting to tell Corey he loves her and so much more including a member of staff gambling the takings and an angry little shoplifter. I could go on because basically "Empire Records" is all about these little stories revolving around the diverse collection of misfits who work for Joe.
Now some of these storylines are good, some have depth whilst others are just strange going past the point of comical but in a way whilst you have all these stories going on flitting from one to another in a breathe "Empire Records" is less about these and more of an experience. I say experience because of all the strange things going on such as depressive Debra showing up to work and hacking her hair off or Corey trying to come on to has been pop star Rex. Talking of which Rex being a cheesy has been with big hair and bad fashion sense is most certainly an experience one which Corey's friend Gina experiences against the photocopier. Throw in a prominent and constant changing sound track accompanied by the staff dancing and playing air guitar and you have a movie which grabs your eyes and ears if not your mind.
And that is its strength; it is such a whacky movie with great music and full on performances. You go from the comical Ethan Embry rocking out to a Heavy Metal track to RenĂ©e Zellweger and Liv Tyler acting like backing singers to something more pop and 80s orientated. Throw in the fatherly figure of Joe as he tries to deal with Lucas for losing money and then the psychotic Warren for shoplifting, yes the two interweave as it is Lucas who catches Warren shoplifting and you have so many memorable smile moments. Of course if you don't like the soundtrack you are not going to like "Empire Records" because it is the driving force of the movie.
One of the most amazing things about "Empire Records" is that we have a big cast and a lot of characters and as such whilst we have individual stories the characters are not exactly strong or well rounded. Yet because everyone gives their all be it Liv Tyler as Corey or Anthony LaPaglia as Joe you become so engrossed by there energetic performances. And lets be honest when you watch the scene where Robin Tunney as Debra first attacks her hair with scissors, hacking away at it then shaving it off you will never forget it, it is so full on.
What this all boils down to is that "Empire Records" technically is a strange movie because whilst we have lots of little stories in the day of the life of a record store they feel strangely unconnected. But then "Empire Records" is more about the experience, the humour of these little stories and the fun of the staff rocking out to songs and of course the predominant and diverse soundtrack which provides the driving force to the whole movie.