I give “Johnny Suede” credit for being original, and unusual and surreal. Hell, if David Lynch made a musical comedy, I think this film would be it. But what’s the ultimate caveats that drag the film down into pure horrid depths? Tedium and acting. This story of a perpetually naïve young man who can’t quite understand how delusional he is in his pipe dream of becoming a huge star would have been better served had we been given a better leading man, but alas Pitt once again convinces me that he’s just not a good actor. Granted, it’s an early role, but Pitt could never convince me he’s a solid performer aside from his brief stint in “Snatch.”
Here, he’s always working on half cocked as a typical music lover who feels his good looks and style will grant him his entitled fame as a music star. Aesthetically, “Johnny Suede” is a gorgeous movie, and it’s one that looks like it could be set any time with the cityscapes awfully appealing even when we set down on gutters and ghettoes. DiCillo has a great eye for pastels and fifties chic set pieces, and one of the treats of the film is the visual oddities that are subtle enough to miss but never forgettable. While DiCillo does admirably vie for unusual with Suede creating songs that are so broad they’re absurd, the overall dynamic between Pitt and his co-stars are often very flat.
Pitt simply can’t keep up with folks like Keener and Nick Cave, and when the story is reliant on his delusions and fantasies of being a big rock star, it’s sadly a flat affair. Everything beyond him is a fairly tedious string of events that never can be witty as it so desperately strives for. His interactions with his friend Deke, his song about eating a carrot for breakfast, and his inevitable romance with a woman who thrives on his jealousy and anger is all such tedious fluff without a point nor a purpose. The point of Suede getting Black Suede shoes due to some serendipity in a phone booth in which a good deed gets him a heavenly gift that may or may not have been intentional.
Nonetheless, DiCillo’s film is a rather repetitive affair with dialogue that’s just filled nonsensical discussions of Suede’s music and his eventual meeting with a woman who provides a reality check, but not even Keener can competently bring this film to a higher plain of entertainment. “Johnny Suede” has a lot of appeal and potential, but it’s sadly a wasted and utterly terrible experience. I really have to the appreciate the surreality, and originality it strives in bringing, but “Johnny Suede” as a whole is tedious, dull, and really sports a bevy of weak performances, particularly from Brad Pitt.