Rock historians and hard-core Buddy Holly fans can and do take issue with director Steve Rash's 1978 biopic of the Lubbock, Texas, rocker's life: the script liberally juggles details from Holly's brief but blazing career, replacing producer Norman Petty and Holly's original bassist and drummer with fictionalized composite characters. Yet the core of the film, and the reason it's definitely worth a look and listen, is Gary Busey's lusty performance in the title role, triumphing against what might have seemed miscasting.
The burly, lantern-jawed Busey steps into the lankier, narrow-faced Holly's blue suede shoes and dances off with the movie. At a time when live rock albums thought little of overdubbing mistakes in the studio, director Rash honored Busey's nervy gamble in performing these songs live, singing in his own raw voice and rumbling through his own approximations of Holly's guitar work. What's lost in precise verisimilitude is more than compensated by Busey's conviction and a palpable, almost ecstatic terror as he charges through Holly's wonderful songs before indifferent roller-rink audiences.
Other films have nailed the period more accurately through art direction or script, but Busey's authentic energy gives this movie an emotional veracity that's just right for this chapter in rock history. Still, for musical purposes, go straight to the source, Holly's wonderful recordings.--Sam Sutherland
PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Okay, so this is a wildly inaccurate movie. That's well-established. Fictionalized names are assigned to Joe Mauldin, and Jerry Allison, apparently due to the film rights for their stories already owned by another company. No mention of Niki Sullivan or Norman Petty. Plus a lot of stuff that didn't happen and some mischaracterizations. The real Buddy couldn't read music, which makes it odd that sheets of musical notation are key factors in several scenes. The Jerry Allison character has an ugly racist streak, which seems a rather poor disservice to the real Allison. Buddy leaves his girlfriend of five years rather callously, although the real-life Echo actually broke it off with him. The rock-n-roll lifestyle wasn't for her, as she has said in interviews. Knowing this makes it a trifle hard to accept the scene in which she insists he turn off the radio in the truck because it's playing rock music yet immediately engages is some rather heavy petting for a late 1950s churchgoing girl...
Old style ambiance and a splendid performance by Gary Busey made this a wonderful experience for us. Buddy Holly was responsible for many sounds we both remember from our youth, and were easily set to screen by Mr. Busey. It was a natural performance, portraying a unique personality while displaying an obvious love of the music and his own musical chops. The hesitant and sometimes stilted conversational style seemed perfectly fit for Mr. Holly's own (I don't remember hearing him speak, but he always appeared to be a little shy and reticent artist). I don't know why I never saw this when it came out, but I'm glad I finally took the time.
Buddy Holly was my favorite rock artist when he was alive and still is. A true pioneer of the genre, setting the template for the standard Rock'N'Roll band: a lead & rhythm guitar, drums & bass. He was also among the first in the genre to write, produce and perform his own songs. He managed to bridge the racial divide and along with Elvis Presley, created a genre of music with it's roots in rockabilly country, and blues inspired R & B. And the songs, beginning w/"That'll be the Day", "Peggy Sue" and running through the innovative "True Love Ways" and "I Guess it Doesn't Matter Anymore", are among the best rock anthems ever written. All this in a career that spanned barely a year and a half. This film is a good commemorative of Holly's life, but it bears little resemblance to the real Buddy Holly story. Notwithstanding, the dramatic performance of Gary Busey as Holly; and the musical performances of Busey, Don Stroud and Charles Martin Smith, as Buddy...
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