The story of how a gritty little hole in the wall revolutionized rock’n’roll. Hint: nobody saw it coming.
CBGB is a rock legend–so many bands got their start here between 1973-2006. Even Hep Alien got to play! This is the story behind the scenes, starting with lovable ne’er-do-well Hilly Kristal–he can’t keep a bar running, so why should this one be any different? Originally meant to be a Country, Bluegrass, and Blues bar, CBGB became wildly popular in the rock, punk, and new wave scene. All Hilly has to do is not screw it up, which is easier said than done.
If you love legendary rock/punk and all the tackiness the 70s has to offer, CBGB will appeal to you on at least one level. Although it drags during the “oh no, we’re broke” scenes, it’s worth it for the zeitgeist and the glimpse into a world you might have been too young to witness. (No, I’m not bitter that I didn’t get to fly to NYC during the precious 2-3 years I could have gone (legally). Not at all.)
Everyone is in this movie.
Alan Rickman as Hilly Kristal
Oh, Alan Rickman, I love you so much. Out of all the celebrity deaths in 2016, this one hurt me the most. Rickman is damn near unrecognizable here, except for his gorgeous voice, and as always, he is the charismatic soul of the movie.
Donal Logue as Merv Ferguson
Malin Akerman as Debbie Harry
Johnny Galecki as Terry Ork
Ashley Greene as Lisa Kristal
Aw, sweet Alice Cullen has now become the dad-wrangling badass who helped saved CBGB.
Rupert Grint as Cheetah Chrome
You will see Rupert Grint’s butt. I feel like this is a kid I watched grow up as I babysat him, so what is he doing, showing his bare butt? (Same goes for you, Matthew Lewis and Daniel Radcliffe! Keep your clothes on! At least most of them.) Incidentally, the real Cheetah Chrome is in the movie, as a cabbie.
Taylor Hawkins as Iggy Pop
Yup, that’s Taylor Hawkins from the Foo Fighters, and he has a pretty fair resemblance to the real Iggy.
Couch-Sharing Capability: Not With Your Parents
This is one of those movies, like Cruel Intentions, where the potential for awkwardness is high. Sure, your parents probably know all about what happened in the 70s, and maybe even partook themselves, but that doesn’t mean anyone wants Mom and Dad to be inspired to ask you if you’ve, say, done or would do hard drugs, or perform sex acts in public places. Theoretically. On the other hand, Hilly’s 70+-year-old mother has one of the best lines in the movie, so we know at least some ‘rents can hang.
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Drink Like It’s On the House
Not a particularly brilliant businessman (initially), Hilly loves to just…not charge people for drinks. As a customer and a consumer of booze and live music, this is a philosophy I can appreciate. You should drink every time something gross happens in the club, including things like “when the camera pans over the walls or goes into the bathroom.” Alcohol kills germs, especially imaginary ones! It’s science. Also, drink every time you miss Alan Rickman. (Would you say it’s…always?)
Use of Your Netflix Subscription: Think Upon These Legends and Lament
GAAAAH. What would it have been like to actually be at CBGB in its heyday, watching bands like Blondie and the Talking Heads and the Ramones become A Thing? There are some performance videos and documentaries, but this movie also serves as a couple of vicarious hours in a scene most of us didn’t get to experience. It’s not the best movie–I’d rate it 3/5 stars–but it is fairly entertaining, and if nothing else, you’ll be inspired to find a CBGB playlist, the Wikipedia article, a list of things that the movie got right or wrong, and a book that takes place in a dirty rock club. (If you have recommendations on that last count, let us know.)