June is the month of my lovely wifes’ birthday and one of her requests was to get to choose a few movies for me to review. How could I say no to watching some of her favorite movies?
Her first pick was Empire Records. It is easy to see why it is one of her favorite movies. It encapsulates the 90s and the wide variety of music that came with it. While she loves most music, she is a punk at heart. Even though Rex Manning may not be punk, everything else screams the alternative lifestyle of the 90s that she loves. So how do I rate something that is so near and dear to my wife’s heart?
I would give it 6 “Rex Manning Days” out of 10.
FOR THE UNITIATED
Empire Records follows the staff of an independent record store over the course of a hectic day. Newly promoted night manager Lucas is closing the store solo for the first time and happens to come across documents showing the store will likely become part of a large franchise. So Lucas takes the nightly drop, goes to Atlantic City, bets it all, and loses. Employees AJ and Mark show up only to have Lucas ramble on about regrets before leaving them to rightly assume the money was all lost in Atlantic City. The manager, Joe, is immediately bombarded with calls about the missing money while the other employees go through their introductions. Corey (Liv Tyler) tells her best friend Gina (Renee Zellweger) she is going to lose her virginity to washed up musician Rex Manning. Deb comes into work with a shaved head and other employees discover she tried to commit suicide but couldn’t follow through the prior night.
It eventually comes out that Joe was trying to buy the store to save it from becoming a franchise store, but thanks to the drop from last night going missing that likely won’t happen. So he spends the day commiserating about what to do since he doesn’t want to fire his employees.
The best aspect of Empire Records would be the characters. They all embody the attitudes and different characteristics of the various teenagers drawn to music. We go from Lucas who is the wanna-be philosopher to Eddie who is the pizza delivery / vinyl enthusiast stoner. Deb is the tragic girl that doesn’t recognize she has everything she wants without realizing she almost threw it away. Corey is the innocent girl with the perfect life, who secretly has a pill problem and wants to give her virginity away to a washed up rock anGina is the carefree girl who is known for sleeping around, but she secretly does care what everyone thinks. AJ is a talented artist who is in love with Corey, but doesn’t want to pursue his goals due to a fear of failing. There are several other characters, but if you went to high school at any point, ever went to a record store, or have seen any 90s teen movie then you know all the characters.
While it isn’t a standout negative aspect of the movie, it is definitely a time capsule. If you don’t like 90s teen movies and all the trappings that come with that, you will not like Empire Records. There is zero consequence to any actions, unless it is positive for the main characters. Any major arguments between the characters, no matter how divisive gets resolved like it never happened. The ending seems to come out of nowhere just to wrap up the movie and resolve everyone’s issues.
The movie is great, but a product of the times. The hair, the fashion, the music, and the fact that a large store could exist solely by selling music is very outdated … but not necessarily in a negative way. Nostalgia will play a big factor in how much you can appreciate Empire Records, but if you like the 90s then go and watch it already!
Coming up with a recommendation this time might have been the most difficult decision so far. I decided to lean into the nostalgia and music, so I picked Wayne’s World. It shows more than just a music store and packs a lot more laughs. Similarly, it shows that nostalgia is ever present by bringing a song from the 70s into the forefront of 90s memories. I give you Bohemian Rhapsody!