In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “How could I be entertained by a movie called Eddie and the Cruisers if Eddie was boring?”
“Eddie, you’re wrong! You’re wrong! Now listen to me, I love you! I’ve known longer than anyone else! But you’re wrong!”
Eddie and the Cruisers doesn’t include a single actor I could give two shits about. Eddie and the Cruisers wasn’t written or directed by anyone I could give two shits about. Eddie and the Cruisers doesn’t have a reputation as a critical hit or cult favourite. But for some reason, Eddie and the Cruisers has been a movie I’ve been meaning to watch for years. Mainly because I remember seeing ads for it on telly when I was a kid and asking my mum to tape it for me. The next day, she claimed to have forgotten to tape it. That means one of two things. Either she genuinely forgot to tape it. Or, she did tape, but watched it at the same time, saw tits and decided her 10 year old son didn’t need to see it. Whatever happened back in the late 80s or early 90s to stop me from seeing it, I finally saw Eddie and the Cruisers.
It’s the 60s, and Eddie and the Cruisers have a number one hit. But cut to present day early 80s, and we learn that front man Eddie Wilson (Michael Pena) supposedly died in a car accident back then. Since the body was never recovered, 80s journalist Maggie (Ellen Barkin) decides to track down the other members of the band, and play on the “is Eddie really dead?” angle. So now it’s time for a Citizen Cane style story as different people share different memories of Eddie and the band, from their own perspective.
While plenty of ex-Cruisers get to have their say, the main focus is Frank Ridgeway (Tom Berenger). With the band already well and truly established before they ever met Frank, he was initially resented. A terrible singer and mediocre piano player, Eddie immediately recognises a unique lyric writing talent in Frank. A talent that would take them from bar band to hit record making stars. But when Maggie digs into the band’s history a decade and half after Eddie’s supposed death, that history only becomes more and more complicated.
While the time frame of the story might be a decade or so too early, the New Jersey roots, muscle shirt bravado and working class guitar rock of the fictional band makes me think Eddie and the Cruisers was influenced by Bruce Springsteen more than just a little. This movie was made in between two enormous hit albums for the Boss, Nebraska and Born in the USA. Which means this album was made in between Springsteen the successful guitar rock singer / songwriter, and Springsteen the pop chart dominating mega star. I have no idea if that was a big influence on this movie, or just a coincidence. But watching it with that hindsight made me like Eddie and the Cruisers a little more than I think I may have without it.
At first, I was put off by how wooden an uncompelling Pena was as Eddie. How could I be entertained by a movie called Eddie and the Cruisers if Eddie was boring? But as the movie went on, I realised that (intentional or not), Pena’s stiff, boring performance was a real asset. Because the title of the movie is a bluff, the concept of Eddie being alive or dead is a McGuffin. Eddie’s ultimate fate doesn’t matter. Eddie and the Cruisers isn’t about Eddie. It’s about the people he left behind and the lives they built in the aftermath.