It’d been nearly a decade since I’d last seen Empire Records before I went to the Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet to catch it last Thursday.
A fixture throughout my late high school years and freshman year of college, its basic “Breakfast Club in the Pretty In Pink record store” premise had eventually grown tired, and I’d moved on to grittier fare.
While I’d thought this particular screening was special — Mills Record Company set up in the lobby, Antennas Up playing songs from the soundtrack after — I wasn’t aware that this was, essentially, the last time the film would be screened on 35mm.
Revisiting this movie after such a break was pretty fun. The Alamo was playing all of the songs from the soundtrack as music videos before the movie started, and combined with all the other aspects, really brought home how much Empire Records was about music. Much like the John Hughes films of the ’80s, the soundtrack is as much a character as the parts played by the actors.
Watching the slightly scratchy print, I was reminded of the bad VHS dub that was part of the regular movie parties in my dorm room. The film holds up all right — it’s not great, but the performances are all better than I remembered them being, and you see why so many of these actors went on to bigger and better things.
It holds a special place in my heart, and so many of the lines came right to mind as soon as the movie started, but Empire Records is more a selection of really great scenes and spot-on performances than a solid film in and of itself. The plot jumps around, and everyone’s drawn as a broad caricature, rather than an actual person.
Still, it works, and it’s fun as hell, and it was great to see it again.
Antennas Up’s performance was a little spotty at first — they had some equipment issues with the the synths during Edwyn Collins’ “A Girl Like You” — but they were rolling full-speed by the time they covered “Say No More, Mon Amour,” the infamous Rex Manning track featured so many times during the film. A spot-on rendition of “Sugarhigh” capped everything nicely, as well.
Big thanks to the Alamo Drafthouse for continually doing amazing things like this, and for partnering with Middle of the Map to make me see more films in Kansas City than I really ever do in Lawrence.