One of the best movies ever made, in my opinion, is Empire Records. It was never going to win any Oscars, it wasn’t groundbreaking in the way that it was made, or in the script, but there’s something about Empire Records that makes a damn hilarious, touching and epically memorable film.
Truthfully? I started working at a music store with Empire Records ideals in mind (I’m not stupid, I knew that it was going to be different, but the movie made working in a record store seem so cool and I was 17), to realize that where I had landed was more Music Town, but most of the staff had an Empire state of mind.
Empire Records is a day in the life of the employees of an independent record store which is open until midnight. Over the course of the day – and film – each of the employees face different problems, intertwining between their personal lives and the store. When it was originally released in 1995, it was the era of Doc Martens, tartan skirts and indie bands who erred on the side of grunge – think Seattle over Splendour.
Centered around Joe (Adelaide’s own Anthony LaPaglia), the manager of Empire Records and his team (using that term loosely) of staff, each with their own demons – Lucas (Roy Cochrane, CSI: Miami), loyal to the last dollar, the son Joe never had who hears about the possible takeover of Empire from Music Town, a commercialized chain. Lucas’ solution to the problem is to take the store’s takings to Vegas, gamble it… and subsequently lose it. Though it sounds like he’s the most insane of the bunch, Lucas’ placid, Yoda-esque outlook is a great foil for the kinetic energy of the rest of the crew.
There’s AJ (Johnny Whitworth, CSI: Miami), who is in love with Corey (Liv Tyler, Inventing the Abbotts) who in turn is trying to hook up with celebrity guest (and washed up hack) Rex Manning (played perfectly by Maxwell Caulfield), Renee Zellweger (Chicago) as the promiscuous Gina, Ethan Embry (Can’t Hardly Wait) as Mark, the stoner kid who wants to start a band and Deb (Robin Tunney, The Craft) who shaves her head in the staff bathroom.
With a backup cast including Coyote Shivers (who at the time of filming was marrying Liv Tyler’s Mum – how weird is that?), Debi Mazar (Entourage), Brendan Sexton III and James ‘Kimo’ Wills and with a soundtrack that hits 90’s grunge on the head – The Cranberries, Better than Ezra and Aussie band The Cruel Sea – and more quotable lines than you can poke a stick at, Empire Records became an underground cult hit after it was released and it’s easy to see why.
I dare you to watch it and not want to save a local business with an impromptu concert and kegger on a rooftop after hours!
Damn the man, save the Empire!