Take a good scoop of adolescence, mix it with a hearty dose of the love for music, and sift it through the coming-of-age story – and you’ll get a good picture of how music defines generations of filmmakers. And while we wait for the release of Band Aid in the UK, we’re taking a swift look at the films where music played a crucial role for the main character.
We Are the Best!
Directed by a Swedish director/writer Lukas Moodysson, it’s a fantastic story of punk-rockers who decide to start a band. They don’t have instruments and their environment isn’t exactly supportive, but they try their hardest to express themselves in every way they can. Widely applauded by critics, it’s a light-hearted and sweet film that channels the adolescent rebellion perfectly.
So many things were said about John Lennon: he inspired at least a handful of documentaries, and starred in music films made to promote the Beatles with A Hard Day’s Night topping the list. He even starred in How I Won the War (okay Harry Styles, you’re not the first one who’s done this). There have been films about their early years – for example Backbeat that depicts their Germany times. But his Liverpudlian adolescence was never quite tackled until Nowhere Boy from Sam Taylor-Johnson. Focusing on the hard relationship with his aunt, mother and the friendships he forms, it’s a heartfelt insight into the teenage years of a rebel.
Conor is a boy with a truly rock-and-rolling brother and a breaking family. Ending up being moved to a state school in Dublin, he opens a new period in his life. When he first talks to his crush, he mentions he’d like her to star in his music video… but his band is yet to be formed, and the songs won’t write themselves. Infused by 80s pop, it’s a really entertaining coming-of-age film; it’s difficult to be immune to its charm. But as we all know, John Carney doesn’t disappoint when it comes to music films. He directed the critically acclaimed Once and Begin Again – both worth checking out.
A young journalist gets an assignment he’s been dreaming of: he gets to interview Stillwater, a rock band that’s been getting a lot of traction. But only when he sets out on the tour with them, he sees the real meaning of the mantras they live for. Awarded with an Oscar for the screenplay and topped with Kate Hudson’s performance, it’s certainly a must-see for all those who crave a music drama/comedy.
Before Damien Chazelle bagged an Oscar for La La Land, he cooperated with Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons to tell a story of a drummer who is so hungry for success that he’ll endure ever the weirdest, most ridiculous wishes of his teacher. Capturing the youthful passion and desperation, and creating an antagonist that is literally the whole gamut of evil, Whiplash is a must-watch for those who love fictional films about music. And if you’re a jazz fan in particular, we’d take a closer look at this director’s filmography.
Love and Mercy
The UK had The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, but at the same time California had The Beach Boys. However, was the music they created influenced by a mental illness? Love and Mercy takes us years ahead: the band leader is now drugged into unconsciousness to “fight” schizophrenia, but meeting somebody special gives him a chance to return to a better state of mind – and gives us a background of the boyband history, when going against all the odds gave Brian Wilson a classic album that entered the Sixties canon.
This Is Spinal Tap
Not in the mood for a documentary? Turn the fiction up to eleven with the classic of the mockumentary genre, a film that channels all the band drama in a hilarious fashion. Depicting all the struggles that Spinal Tap go through on the regular basis, this movie is everything that Almost Famous above isn’t – and it caricatures the rock and roll myths brilliantly.
Released at the same time as We Are Your Friends with Zac Efron and sharing the topic, the film got Mia Hansen-Love a lot of positive attention. Following the wannabe DJ on the streets of Paris, the film portrays the movement that brought us Daft Punk. Paul – the main character – is much more realistic, faces real struggles of daily life, and depicts a person trying to go with the flow of rising electronic music and club culture movement.
Florence Foster Jenkins
We had a lot of coming-of-age films here – but the passion for music never stops, cue a period film entry. Although Hugh Grant had a flick where he was a one-hit-wonder songwriter (Music and Lyrics, everyone, which is genuinely my guilty pleasure), a funny and somewhat inspiring music-related film performance came with the story of a woman who loved to sing despite her total inability to carry a tune. Meryl Streep (who has become a rock-and-roll mum in Ricki and the Flash before, too) is the titular character who aims to become an opera singer despite being mocked – but hey ho, what says it better to never give up and do what you love?
PS. I know, I know, The School of Rock, The Pick of Destiny, and many, many more… but haven’t we seen them all?
What are your favourite films about music? Tweet us @besidemag!