Monday, July 10, 2017
(September 1992, U.S.)
CNN has just begun their annual summer documentary series of each decade since the 1960s. We're now into the 1990s, and like the others before it, they begin the series with popular and influential television. Those of us who still have the '90s fresh in our minds and our memories will recall that FRIENDS and MELROSE PLACE were two of the decade's hottest shows. Yet, surprisingly, most people easily forget, or simply won't acknowledge that neither of those shows would have likely existed were it not for Cameron Crowe's film SINGLES first. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, let's recap...
The film centers on the social and romantic lives of a group of young people of the Generation X era, living in Seattle, Washington during the grunge music phenomenon at the start of the '90s. The young men and women are almost always hanging out together (often in the local coffee shop) and happen to live in the same apartment complex. While the film divides itself into the chapters of their multiple lives (echoing Woody Allen's HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, in my opinion), we're intended to focus more on Steve Dunne and Linda Powell (played by Campbell Scott and Kyra Sedgwick, respectively) from the time they first meet at a grunge club straight on through their rocky relationship, that includes an unexpected pregnancy and a car accident that causes her to lose the baby. It's easy to see just how crazy each of them are about each other from the time they meet, yet neither of them are capable of a true commitment to each other, even when they agree to get married due to the pregnancy. Rocky or not, their relationship is built on love, and that, of course, triumphs in the end. And if we're not entirely sure of how to keep up with things, we have the benefit of on-screen narration by its principal characters (think Woody Allen again at the opening of ANNIE HALL or Ferris Bueller speaking to us on his day off).
Though not given equal screen time, we can't ignore the relationship between Cliff (played by Matt Dillon), a grunge rock musician playing in a band called Citizen Dick (his band mates the real members of Pearl Jam at the start of their career!) and Janet (played by Bridget Fonda, a waitress at the above-mentioned coffee shop who wants to be an architect (poor choice, girl!). She loves him, he likes her. She's committed to him, he sees other people. She comes to her senses and dumps him, he regrets his aloofness with her and tries to win her back. It's all part of what constitutes real life, real world relationships and their irresistible moments of happiness, setbacks, sorrow and just plain 'ol stupidity. But more than these clichés, SINGLES makes a rather successful attempt at pointing out the vulnerability and insecurities many of us likely experienced following our college years. Not only were we faced with the prospect of finding our first place and securing our first real job, but also how to get past the ongoing grind of dealing with the opposite sex without all the games and bullshit involved in dating, sex, relationships, etc. For myself, when the film was released in the fall of 1992, I'd just finished my college education and was living alone in my mom's house (she moved out!). For the next six years, I didn't a have single serious relationship until I met the woman that would one day become my wife. Those years comprised of many dates, a old girlfriend who was now a "friend with benefits" and also a torch I was still carrying for a woman who didn't return my feelings. In short, the nineties were a real bitch for me as a single!
Cameron Crowe has managed to repeatedly capture the hearts and minds of young people since he wrote the screenplay for FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982), continued with SAY ANYTHING (1988) and went straight on through to ALMOST FAMOUS (2000). Through it all, he's also reminded us of the music that's represented the soundtrack of our lives, regardless of what the era was. High school was never without its rock music, love was not without Peter Gabriel and the boom box held high above our heads, fun was not without the live rock concerts, and as singles trying to figure out where we belonged, the grunge music took what we'd previously known as heavy metal hair music and turned into something completely wild and different. Unfortunately, rock may have very well ended in the '90s during the grunge period. What can the entire 21st Century (so far) honestly claim for itself with any pride? Justin Beiber, Lady GaGa and Taylor Swift (geez, I think I'm going to be sick!)??
Favorite line or dialogue:
Cliff Poncier: "Where are the anthems for our youth? What happened to music that meant something? The Who at the Kingdome, or Kiss at the Coliseum? Where is the "Misty Mountain Hop,"? Where is the "Smoke on the Water"? Where is the "Iron Man" of today?"
I hear you, Cliff...and I feel for you!