Failure and regret are confronted via a return trip home in Roadie, Michael Cuesta’s hodgepodge of indie clichés about a Blue Oyster Cult roadie named Jimmy Testagros (Ron Eldard) who, fired after 20 years of service setting up the band’s gear, temporarily moves back in with his mom (Lois Smith) in his old Forest Hills, Queens neighborhood. With mutton chops and matching bushy mustache, a cigarette often on his lips and a leather jacket affixed to his pudgy frame, Jimmy is a rock n’ roll lifer gone to seed, one whose anger at being let go is dwarfed by the more pressing shame and embarrassment of having never achieved his dreams of stardom or, at least, of being BOC’s manager and songwriting partner. Nonetheless, he claims those latter roles as his own when confronted by Mom, former bullying classmate Bobby (Bobby Cannavale), and Bobby’s wife—and Jimmy’s teenage girlfriend—Nikki (Jill Hennessy). Ensnared by these lies and forced to confront semi-reciprocated feelings for Nikki, Jimmy soon finds himself spiraling out of control, and with him goes Cuesta’s movie, a slice of slight character-driven conventionality in which directorial sensitivity and drama rooted in tense conversations and intermittent blow-ups prove incapable of imparting depth to a tale that plays like a series of simplistic stock gestures.
Eldard embodies Jimmy with a soul-sickness that’s authentically concealed beneath a façade of desperate fairy-tale falsehoods, but like so much of Roadie, his emotional circumstances are obvious and uncomplicated. The same is true of Cuesta’s basic narrative, which—between Jimmy getting nostalgic in his ‘70s-preserved bedroom listening to old vinyls, suffering Bobby calling him the hated high school nickname “Testicles,” and eventually confronting his, Nikki, and Bobby’s self-deceptions during a night of motel drinking and drugging—is pockmarked by standard scenarios that offer no insight into remorse or starting over. Instead, it’s just formula designed to give its performers some stripped-down material on which to chew, and in that regard, Cannavale and Hennessy, like Eldard, get at their characters’ hang-ups and resentments with minimal histrionics. Even with Jimmy’s mom ultimately slapping down her son’s self-pity, however, Roadie takes its characters’ suffering seriously without ever properly justifying said misery as enlightening or unique, leading to a story that ultimately finds itself with nowhere to go but down a things-fall-apart path that ends with that most hackneyed of root causes for Jimmy’s unfulfilled aspirations and current down-on-his-luck predicament: daddy issues.