Sometimes you see a poorly shot trailer that ends up being for an indie film that has such a unique premise and uses its limited budget so well that you forgive the bad cuts and can’t stop thinking about the film. This isn’t one of those times.
THE 27 CLUB had a fun premise, though not a unique one. The phrase refers to the slew of incredible musicians whose lives were ended suddenly at age 27. Unfortunate inductees include Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin and Amy Winehouse, among others. The idea that these musicians suffered from some sort of cult fate that gave them their talent is an interesting one, though bordering on disrespectful. Many a film before this one has speculated as to the cause of this numerical fate for many musicians, centered around a fictional new member of this club, so the premise of this 2019 film isn’t blazing any trails, nor is it immediately off-putting.
But what THE 27 CLUB gets the most wrong is that it doesn’t respect the musicians that are members of this tragic group. The film paints the picture of a demon, of a satanic cult that gives unfathomable musical talent to those who give themselves to this demon and are willing to share their immense talent until their 27th birthday. This leads to the film’s two critical errors. Firstly, the rules are incredibly unclear. Does the musician become the demon? Is the demon controlling the musician? When do they die, because for some, it’s on their 27thbirthday, and for others, it’s in their 27th year? And why do the musicians keep committing to doing these evil deeds for the demon in their 27th year as if this will protect them? What are the RULES? And the more critical error, the movie implies that these musicians were murderous demons who constantly killed and consumed other people throughout their careers, and stumbled backwards into demon granted talent later in their lives. Gross.
You don’t need to be a fan of their music to be turned off by the idea that Kurt Cobain or Jim Morrison were killing people to forward their careers. Especially with the limited payoff this movie gives to it. You’d almost forgive the implications of it all if the film respected the late legends, but “respect” doesn’t really work to describe the inserts of monologues from the deceased in a smoky black and white room. These monologues are doozies, and worst of all, are spoken by not-too-great lookalikes in obviously plastic wigs (Don’t. Backlight. Bad. Wigs.) with cartoon accents. I weep for Winehouse again.
There are a lot of things to nitpick about the film that would be forgivable if I liked it more. The demon teeth look like they’re from a Halloween store, the demon makeup shifts around the nose, Todd Lungren is… something, and the “good music” and lip-synching scenes are unintentionally comedic.
Though the movie didn’t ultimately work, the main cast brought a charm to the roles that are impossible to ignore. Maddisyn Carter gives the most to Lily, despite the mess that was the lip-synching. She brings enough to this one-dimensional vixen to make you feel her want to be a memorable musician at all costs. And while his performance remains inconsistent (though, almost no one could deliver his dialogue with any feeling of reality), Derrick Denicola brings a charm to Jason that makes the character rise above “nice guy.”
The music and charming acting make this film fun enough to enjoy the best parts of it, but it ultimately takes a premise on the cusp of being indefensible and brings nothing good to it to allow it.
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