When it comes to musicians as actors, John Doe is the “Bruce Campbell” of the profession. Campbell has stated in interviews that he accepted his lot as an actor, in that he’d never be a leading man (after losing out to Billy Zane for The Phantom), instead getting smaller support roles in A-List pictures and leading man roles in B-Movies.
And this seems to be the lot rolled by John Doe. Not that John cares: he’s always a musician first and an actor second. So, like Ash, we’ll see John in the supporting cast of a bloated Hollywood project mixing it up with the likes of
Ryan Reynolds Ben Affleck and Sandra Bullock (Forces of Nature*) and Patrick Swayze (Road House*), then see him as a leading man in an indie project (his upcoming, 82nd film, D.O.A.: The Movie, and the-2002-still-can’t-find-a-copy Under the Gun co-starring Christopher Atkins).
In this Kickstarter-financed, shot-in-two-week-mostly-on-the-first-take film named after an old album from ‘80s college radio darlings the Replacements, John Doe leads a pleasurable cast of veteran musicians thespin’ for the cameras. In his support are Aimee Mann (yes, the Til’ Tuesday “Voices Carry” girl),’70s folk singer Loudon Wainwright III (of the 1972 novelty hit “Dead Skunk (in the Middle of the Road)”), and ’80s college rock folkie Joe Henry. More current indie-rock fans will recognize Whispertown’s Morgan Nagler, Over the Rhine’s Karin Berquist, and the Broken Spurs’ Adam Kramer in the cast.
Doe is somewhat playing himself: Pete Jones, a legendary rocker at a personal and professional crossroads. The muse has left him. He can’t seem to get his long-in-the-studio album finished. He’s dodging bankruptcy, foreclosures, and lawsuits from his record label. He needs help.
That help comes in the form of his ex-wife and former producer Laura Klein (Aimee Mann) who now works as a National Public Radio reporter. Referencing her inner, old studio producer, she believes Pete’s artistic rut is the result of losing his “musical purity.” So, for an episode of her syndicated radio program “World Café, she devises a 24-Hour experiment where she’ll place an online classified ad to form a one-day eclectic band of six random musicians to record a new Pete Jones tune.
This mostly ad-libbed, improvisational comedy project that comes off as a more serious, Spinal Tapish mockumentary is based on a 2002 episode of the National Public Radio program “This American Life.” In that program, a group of strangers were recruited from classified ads to enter the studio for one day to craft a cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”
If you’re a fan of Louisville Kentucky’s indie-rock and folk scene (where this was shot) and hep to obscure references to early ‘90s college rock bands like Sleater-Kinney and Pussy Riot—along with Loudon Wainwright III as a socially maladjusted Theremin player and seeing John Doe in a leading-man role (check all those boxes for moi)—then there’s something here for you to watch.
This one is hard to find and is only available for streaming on the Vudu platform. Sorry, Amazon Prime users: there was a streaming copy, but it’s no longer available. But keeping checking back to see if it returns.
* Look for our full reviews of Forces of Nature and Road House, this week.