I was fortunate to grow up in the sixties and seventies. It was a time when music changes and a love of music gave you the opportunity to be exposed to so much of it at the time. Original music was being made and the hits of the past were celebrated by the new musicians coming up. The Beatles were playing Buddy Holly tunes. Sun Records was a destination musicians made to pay respect for giving birth to Elvis Presley. Tunes past and present were being used in films. All that is mostly gone now, replaced by pre-programmed performers more inclined to seem like fabricated Vegas stars than actual musicians. Auto tuned vocals have replaced talented singers. There may yet be hope but not like there once was.The seventies and eighties also provided us films that celebrated the lives of those great rock and roll originals, the giants of the time. Gary Busey was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal in THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY. Lou Diamond Phillips brought Richie Valens alive. And Dennis Quaid took a turn as well in this film as Jerry Lee Lewis.The movie launches as Jerry and his cousin Jimmy Swaggart are peering in the window and a local black speakeasy. Jerry is lured in by the thumping beat of the piano as tunes are beat out of the black and white keyboard. Fast forward to years later as Jerry (Quaid) has convinced his cousin J.W. Brown (John Doe) to be in a band and get a recording contract with Sam Phillips at Sun Records.They record the records but are told that he won't draw a crowd because girls are more interested in guitar players who can move while playing. A gig at a local redneck bar changes all that when the promoter sees Jerry Lee seduce an entire crowd by leaping to his feet and kicking away his bench while playing.Their next concern is the content of the song he played which Sam's brother thinks will be a huge hit. They know the song "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" is an innuendo for sex but take the risk. The station plays it, kids flock to buy it and parents condemn the song as immoral. There is no better form of promotion to a teen than a parent who says this is bad for you. Lewis scores big, lands his contract and is on the road to success and fame.While all of this is transpiring another momentous decision looms. Lewis has been living with Brown and his family and J.W.'s daughter Myra (Winona Ryder) is smitten with him. The feelings are reciprocated and the two find themselves in love. The only problem is that Myra is only 13 years old. Eventually Lewis and Myra drive to Mississippi where they can marry legally. Needless to say this doesn't go over well with J.W.It has more serious repercussions when the word gets out to the rest of the world. Lewis in about to take on a major tour of the UK where he is set to rival Elvis as the king of rock and roll. He insists that Myra accompany him on the trip. When the press gets word that she is his wife and her age, the outrage expressed is monumental. Lewis becomes a pariah, his tour is canceled and recovering from this decision will affect him from there forward.Most of this is well known to those who are aware of the story of Jerry Lee Lewis and his ill-fated marriage to second cousin Myra. If not this is a decent exposure to the story and one that's an entertaining film at the same time. But while entertaining it is a bit more of a fluff piece than a deep digging expose of the story.The film tends to gloss over the facts and is based on a relatively short period of time. There is little or no depth to the depictions on screen. It feels more like a Cliff's Notes version of the story of Jerry Lee Lewis. That's not necessarily a bad thing but it leaves more questions open than answered.Quaid's performance here is interesting if nothing else. I've been a fan of his since his work in BREAKING AWAY. He's an accomplished actor and has played more roles and done better than here, as entertaining as he is to watch. But the choice to give him the bright colored flopping mane of Lewis along with the most caricature styled facial expressions makes him appear cartoonish at times. It's as if director here made the decision that Lewis would be "on" at all times was the determining factor resulting in a Lewis that never seems real and seems more non-stop performer. When you compare this performance with that of the aforementioned Busey and Phillips it seems unnatural.The end result does offer an entertaining film that can be enjoyed though. The music and the musical performances by Quaid lip synching Lewis who did the vocals and piano playing are electric. Olive Films has offered this title at an affordable price for a blu-ray and fans will now be able to have a quality version to add to their collection. But if you decided to do a tribute night of early rock and roll stars start with this one and end with Buddy Holly.
As a child in rural Louisiana, Jerry Lee Lewis is entranced by black music. In 1956 Memphis, Jerry (Dennis Quaid) moves in with his cousin Rusty Brown's family including his daughter Myra Gale Brown (Winona Ryder). Sam Phillips of Sun Records, who signed Elvis, signs Jerry. His cousin Jimmy Swaggart (Alec Baldwin) tries to get him to serve God. He marries 13-year-old Myra after already married twice. It becomes a scandal during a 1958 British tour.This is a fun light rock-and-roll movie with a great manic performance by Dennis Quaid. The drama is backloaded with the scandal well into the second half. This has great music. A more dramatic story could be done concentrating not on his music but on his personal life and marriages. This is nevertheless a fun rock biopic and a memorable performance.
Great Balls Of Fire is the title song of the greatest hit by legendary rock and roller Jerry Lee Lewis who couldn't quite handle the sudden fame and wealth thrust into his hands. It serves as a singularly appropriate title for a film about his life.Jerry Lee is played by Dennis Quaid and the role is quite a stretch for him. I'm used to seeing an older and more mature Quaid in films like Swimmer and The Express. Still he does do very well capturing the essence of Lewis as I remember him as a lad.The key to understanding Jerry Lee Lewis is in remembering that what he did in marrying those child brides was quite normal behavior from where he came from. Young girls in the more rural sections of the south frequently got married at 13 to 15 and the success rate wasn't any better or worse than in the more sophisticated parts of the country. I do well remember the scandalous stories back in the late Fifties that put a halt to Lewis's meteoric career. Lewis came back and of course never got quite the same success, but music trends change in any event. He's still doing well on the nostalgic circuit, playing more for the love of it than the need for money. Playing that honky tonk piano and singing meant more to him than the trappings of success.Winona Ryder got a big break in her career playing Lewis's notorious child bride Myra. Interestingly enough at the same time Lewis's stories were in the news, Errol Flynn at 48 escorting young adolescent Beverly Aadland was also making headlines. And Flynn was still married to Patrice Wymore.Great Balls Of Fire is a good film, but really without an ending because Jerry Lee is still making music. May he continue to make it.
A story about the early days of rock and roll. Add the user comments here, a wide mixture of views and detail that sometimes even support each other's views, and there is stuff here for me to piece together bits and pieces of further understandings about those early days. Get to watch it more, it also helps appreciation of that early music. A useful feature, it has legs, others help to give it more useful legs, it even has great balls of fire. * I purchased this as it is early Winona and that is a greater puzzle to me. I had thought that this was her at age 15, playing a 13, yet the feature date says age 17 to 18 and other comments say 18. Yet her look, coupled with her 14ish look in Lucas (1986), make 15 feel real. I would like to get to know production dates for this early stuff. In 1969 (1988) she looks so 18ish to me, In Heathers (1989) so 17ish, in Beatle Juice (1988) so 16ish. A fast-ish browse of fan sites did not uncover any reason to doubt the dates as the order in which these features were made. Some sites also include early reviews and what I have read goes along with that. Guess that I just have to accept that actors are actors, inhabiting different worlds and realities than what is obvious to me. * Sympathies to those growing up in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, etc in those days. It is very different to 50's England in many respects, but not so different in others. Lewis and Jimmy and the others will have found it to be going against the grain to actually find any worthwhile sense. Oh so different to now, oh so very much the same. Nothing like the tit for tat worlds shown by the Lizzie McGuire series 2001+, which is also big and great and scary if deliberately a trifle unreal.