My childhood heroes included the employees of the fictional record store Empire Records. A.J., Lucas, Gina, Corey, Joe, Warren, Deb, and Mark all entertained me for endless hours as I watched them play out their regular day at work. Shoplifters, impromptu dance numbers, and a washed-up celebrity make Empire Records a movie to watch again and again. It stands as a period piece of the 1990’s and a statement about an unconvinced generation, one that you young freshman were being born into a little too late.
The store is out $9,104 since Lucas gambled the money away in an attempt to double it to save the store from being sold out to a franchise. The day turns into a personal culmination for each of the store employees whom learn about love, responsibility and growing up while trying devising a plan to ‘Damn the Man and save the Empire’ so the store can stay independent. From holding fake funerals, to helping a suicidal Deb decide that living is not so bad, to gluing quarters to the floor to reflect Joe’s anger as well as A.J.’s art, Empire Records runs a gauntlet of hilarious situations, along with heartfelt character building scenarios.
The cast is truly outstanding, carrying young actors that were virtually unknown in the early 90’s such as Liv Tyler, Renee Zellweger, Ethan Embry and now CSI star Rory Cochrane. Once you have seen this film, you feel as though the characters are your friends because of the impeccable quirks written into each character’s dialogue. I grew up dreaming of working in a record store because of this movie, or at least dreamed of being an angsty teen that was passionate about something.
WHY YOU MUST SEE THIS FILM
This soundtrack is one of the most thought out and perfectly chosen in the history of soundtracks. Featuring all of the grit and grunge of the decade, as well as the pop and rock, each song fits well with the film as a whole. The Cranberries, Gin Blossoms, and Toad the Wet Sprocket are just a few of the artists included that definitively made this movie ‘classic 90’s.’
It also includes a rare track by The Martinis titled “Free.” This is easily the most beautiful track on the soundtrack, which plays during the most moving scene in the film. As Deb gets to work, she goes into the bathroom and dramatically shaves her head. In an all-too-cliché form of rebellion, it somehow works with the song and the eerie look delivered brilliantly by actress Robin Tunney. This scene is another reason Empire Records is a must-see and is a well deserved classic needing a dust-off.