• Maria S. Nitsolas

Hometowns to Hollywood

This year I’m excited to take part in 'Hometowns to Hollywood’s' Biopic Blogathon.

As a huge fan of biopics, the one consistent thing is that they are always flawed.

If you don’t know anything about the subject, you can float along enjoying the movie for what it is and believing everything you see.

But if you have devoured books and documentaries on your favourite, then it can be hard to watch the films dramatise certain events, omit important details or even cringe at the choice of actor. If you know of a biopic that does a stellar job and accurately portrays the life of someone, please feel free to comment below, I would love to check it out.

In the meantime, here is a review of the biopic I selected…

Great Balls of Fire! (1989)

It takes a brave person to take on the story of Jerry Lee Lewis.

Even someone with a rudimentary knowledge of Lewis knows that it would take more than a feature length movie to delve into the deep, dark abyss of the man famously nicknamed “The Killer”. His life has been marred with controversy and tragedy, so it’s interesting to note that the director of ‘Great Balls of Fire!’, Jim McBride revealed, “This movie does not represent itself in any way to be a historical documentary. We use the book as a jumping-off point."

The book in question is ‘Great Balls of Fire: The Uncensored Story of Jerry Lee Lewis’, written by Murray Silver and Myra Gale Lewis. And the “jumping-off point” catapults you into an almost cartoonish version of 1950s America, complete with bubble gum, poodle skirts and impromptu rock n’ roll dance sequences.

Lewis is discovered by the legendary Sam Phillips who declares, “I can sell that!” and before you know it, he is in the running to become the new king of rock n’ roll. There is the inevitable backlash (“Rock n’ roll is the devil’s music!”) but he is soon riding the wave of success with the inevitable trappings of fame.

But it’s at this point Lewis makes the baffling decision to marry his thirteen-year-old cousin. The film tentatively documents Lewis’ relationship with Myra Gale Brown, but it merely skims (and never sinks below) the surface. They are forced to keep their marriage a secret from the public, but it’s not long before the truth is revealed, hereby marking the beginning of Lewis’ downfall.

The musical soundtrack is pure ear candy, beginning with the opening scene where Jerry Lee as a young boy witnesses a gutsy performance of ‘Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On’, as well as the foot stamping, crowd pleaser ‘Great Balls of Fire’.

Dennis Quaid does an impressive job of replicating Lewis dynamic rock n’ roll persona. From his tousled blond hair and Southern twang to his unbridled stage performances, you can’t help but marvel as his fingers fly over the piano keys; it’s worth watching just for his lively portrayal.

The movie ends on a high note, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a happy end to a painful period in Lewis’ life. Alas, this marked only the beginning of the troubles that continued to plague him.

There is no doubt that this is a thoroughly enjoyable biopic with a great musical soundtrack, but if you are looking for a no-holds barred glimpse into the dark and brilliant Jerry Lewis, then that has film yet to be made.

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