Review by Zev Burrows
Right about at the ten-minute mark, one can pretty much guess what the entirety of The Beat Beneath My Feet will be about. Anyone who’s a movie buff can tell you that the film is basically The Karate Kid and School of Rock put into a blender with the high button pushed. Frankly, this wouldn’t be such a problem if the film weren’t so predictable and formulaic.
Set in modern day South London, teenage outcast Tom (Nicholas Galitzine) is living in a small apartment with his mother Mary (Lisa Dillon), and is an outcast at school, being constantly ridiculed by bullies (surely this is original and hasn’t been before!). His one solace is rock music, but due to a personal family struggle, he must hide his love for the “Devil’s music” away from his mother and the rest of the world, even going so far as to hide his guitar in the air vent of the apartment building.
Tom soon discovers that a neighbor who plays loud rock and roll on a regular basis is a former rock god called Max Stone (Luke Perry), who we quickly learn has a dark past that led to him giving up the rock star life to do nothing but sit in his apartment, smoke pot, and listen to records. The teenager approaches him to teach him how to become a rock star, and after long persuasion (the film spends at least a needless 10 minutes on this), Max finally decides to teach Tom to find his own voice in rock, all the while keeping it a secret from his mother.
The general outline of the film offers very little surprises in the screenplay, which is a shame considering that this formula has been done in so many other movies (and a lot better, I might add), and here was an interesting opportunity to have a fresh take on it. But while I was watching, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that the filmmakers didn’t want to do anything new with this familiar story. The only people who seem to be making any kind of effort for originality are the actors: as a debut performance, Galitzine is well cast as Tom, bringing senses of both cynicism and longing to his performance, and I was convinced of his passion for rock music.
I am told that the film was shot on a low budget, but it still ended up looking like a student film; there are student films that are produced and shot with more precision and professional-looking standards than The Beat Beneath My Feet. Perhaps most of the budget was spent on getting Luke Perry for the main supporting role; it would apparently seem so, as they do get Perry to give it all he has as a worn-out musician who appears to have nothing left. The best scenes in the movie are the songwriting sequences in the middle of the movie where Tom is performing, whether it be to a sold out arena or in a car driving straight into hell; these are the only scenes that have energy and a passion for the craft of filmmaking.
I suppose I should talk a little bit about the music, as this is a film about and driven by music: clearly influenced by early blues rock and punk, the songs for the most part are forgettable, all except for the song that Tom plays at the Battle of the Bands contest. The production sounds great, but the meat of the material isn’t there.
What ended up bothering me the most, again, was the simplistic nature of the narrative. Somewhere, there has to be a list of story templates for filmmakers to use, and this one ends up coming back a lot: the relationship between Stone and Mary doesn’t work and ultimately feels forced, and the liar reveal scene is annoying and redundant, lacking any effort to make it distinct. And that is the film’s major problem: there is little effort to make this production stand out or somewhat memorable. I would suggest that this has less to do with the director, John Williams (not THAT one), and more with the writer, Michael Muller. Whereas the direction has some instances of excitement, the screenplay is a rehash of material we’ve seen done better in other places, and centers on plot points that I’ve grown pretty tired of. I’m sure someone had a story to tell with The Beat Beneath My Feet; but I’m not sure they knew how to make it less predictable.
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