Sweet Friendship: the film Rock My World, featuring Alicia Silverstone

By Daniel Garrett

Rock My World
Director: Sidney J. Furie
Starring: Peter O’Toole, Joan Plowright,
and Alicia Silvestone
GFT Entertainment, 2001

Sometimes we stumble onto a film and find ourselves surprised that it offers more than we expected: I expected that Sidney J. Furie’s film Rock My World would be, at best, a little entertainment, and possibly even irritating, but its story and its look gave me more: the beauty of the English countryside and a manor house, and the situations of an elderly couple who face new financial difficulties and a new opportunity for both money and friendship, and a rock band’s struggles with personal idiosyncrasy and corporate manipulation, elements that together yield a film that is actually memorable. The elderly English couple, played by Peter O’Toole and Joan Plowright, rent their estate to a rock band for its retreat and rehearsals; and the English couple stay on, aristocrats acting as servants. The band, Global Heresy, is recovering from the disappearance of one of its musicians, who has been replaced by a young woman, played by Alicia Silverstone. One of the band members expresses resentment toward her. There are genuine moments of contemplation and drama.

The rock band look like children to the elderly couple; and instinctive and self-indulgent, they often act like children—but, it turns out, some of them also have the openness and gratitude that some children have for adults who treat them well. At first some of the members refer to O’Toole’s character, who is named Charles, as Alfred or Jeeves, and when O’Toole is surrounded in the manor’s hall by fencing bandmembers he looks as if he’s walking to his own grave. He is repulsed, but his wife is kind, welcoming. “What does one say to a debauched American youth wearing full 17th-century black armor?” he wonders at one point. Meanwhile, the record company is planning to offer the band a deceptive, exploitive contract; and one of its representatives is there surreptitiously recording the band; and, unfortunately, such an event is not at all unusual in the way commerce and rock music have interacted throughout rock music history. What is fascinating is that, thanks to the rehearsals we see and hear, rehearsals in which the young woman musician’s improvisations add something good to the music, the film is a musical, one that emerges naturally.

Slowly, the old and the young come together: over cooking, over the beautiful flowers that bejewel the grounds, over cricket—spending time together, helping each other, hearing each other. After the older couple’s niece visits, a young woman who is writing a book on aquatic life, there is an opportunity to learn something more about the couple’s marriage—the wife’s inability to have a child and the husband’s feeling that the niece’s out-of-wedlock birth was both a mistake and an unfair gift. The intimate scenes allow listening and the expression of convincing emotion. A local dance event allows everyone to have a good time, but they return to find that the band member who had gone missing is back—and arrogant and self-centered as ever, wanting his replacement to go away. It turns out his absence was a publicity ploy; and one of his colleagues knew it—the young man who had shown hostility to the new member— (the oddest plot twist is a romantic embrace between that once rude young man and the young woman musician: I’d thought the rude musician was in love with his missing male friend). With a little legal and personal advice from the elderly couple, the band is helped and the elderly couple’s own future is brighter for that. It’s a sweet film.

Daniel Garrett is a writer whose work has appeared in The African, AllAboutJazz.com, American Book Review, Art & Antiques, The Audubon Activist, Cinetext.Philo, Film International, Hyphen, IdentityTheory.com, Muse-Apprentice-Guild.com, Offscreen.com, Option, PopMatters.com, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, WaxPoetics.com, and World Literature Today. He has written fiction, poetry, drama, journalism, and criticism. Daniel Garrett’s web log at Blogger.com, focused on culture and society, is called “City and Country, Boy and Man.” His e-mail addresses are D.Garrett.Writer@gmail.com and dgarrett31@hotmail.com