Review: CBGB

Abby Hathorn, Copy Editor •


Courtesy of the CBGB & OMFUG official Facebook page

The film CBGB can easily be summarized as 50,000 bands and one disgusting bathroom; however, if you can get past the cringe-worthy bathroom scenes, CBGB has a lot of excitement in an hour and 43 minutes.

What starts out as a movie about how one man’s dream of owning a club turns into a rocking tale about the birth of punk rock music and how sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll changed lives. The main character and godfather of punk Hilly Kristal, played by Alan Rickman, is a two-time failing bar owner who makes a third attempt at opening a country, bluegrass, and blues club in the sketchy Bowery of New York City. While renovating his third location, he meets a band on the street who tell Hilly they play “new music”. Little does Hilly know when he gives the band a stage audition that it would change the course of his nightclub and life forever.

Throughout the film, world renowned bands are seen taking the stage at CBGB. Though Hilly and his family and friends struggle to keep the nightclub alive, it is almost like watching a Phoenix rise from the ashes. With every blow, Hilly, his daughter Lisa, and business partner Merv bounce back a little stronger to create a nightclub that would be the stomping grounds of famous punk groups like Talking Heads, The Ramones, Blondie, Iggy Pop, and many more. Despite the incredible talent that walked through CBGB’s dilapidated doors, Hilly insists on managing one, self-destructive band called the Dead Boys.

Even though Hilly and his shenanigans take the highlights of the movie, the start of Punk magazine also plays a role in the plot. Created by three young college graduates, the movie’s style is similar to the layout of an old Punk magazine–pulling out quotes and illustrating characters sometimes like cartoons in a comic book strip.

Overall, CBGB is more than a music history film. CBGB takes the viewer on a journey (though sometimes a graphic one) back in time to the development of a new era not just in music and fashion, but also journalism. As Hilly Kristal would say, “there’s something there.”

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