Johnny has the hairstyle, the attitude and the ambition to make it as a retro-rocker ...he's just lacking the shoes...
Johnny Suede is another one of those modest flicks that, despite having garnered rave reviews at 1991 's London Film Festival and the presence of the then Levi's boy Brad Pitt - Mr. Young Buns hot off the back of Thelma (quite literally) & Louise - somehow skipped by unnoticed at the box office. Director Tom Di Cillo, drawing unashamed inspiration from Jim Jarmusch, which is no surprise since he was the cinematographer on Stranger Than Paradise, dishes up the tale of retro-chic dumbster Johnny (Pitt), a rebel in dire need of a cause, whose kicks are gained from digging Ricky Nelson on his Dansette, spanking his plank and sculpting his huge escarpment of a quiff. Inhabiting a sort of post-Eraserhead world, Johnny possesses everything in life except a rock 'n' roll career, a girlfriend and a decent pair of shoes to replace the deeply crap pair of size nines he scuffs around in. And so when a pair of svelte suede loafers land, quite literally, on his head during the process of reporting a piece of sexual harassment to the police (these are, after all, the 1990s), the key is provided to knocking his life into some semblance of shape as he gets his guitar out of hock and reinvents himself as aspiring teen idol Johnny Suede.And that, basically, is it, although Johnny's fate is, of course, neither here nor there. Of far greater interest are the various oddball characters that shuffle in and out of his lonesome existence - principally girlfriends Darlette and Yvonne (the deliciously schizoid Moir and hard-talking Keener) and, with a performance that establishes a new landmark in the field of overacting, Nick Cave as peroxide singer Freak Storm - as various elements conspire to wreck Johnny's dream.As the rock 'n' roll Candide, Pitt is superb, a wholly innocent holy innocent who wanders his spartan flat with his hands down his fulsome underpants, fumbling around his "strictly Plutonic" relationships, while spouting his own brand of psycho-philosophy in a kind of David Lynch meets Hal Hartley fashion - "I'm not into 'now'; 'now' is a fly's fart in the wind" - as he tries in vain to get some kind of handle on the opposite sex, ultimately bringing about his own undoing. Offbeat, stylish and packed with some wonderfully bizarro moments - such as a TV Western full of vertically challenged cowboys and a real gem of a scene in which Johnny attempts to explain away an act of infidelity to a dumbstruck Yvonne - wider access on DVD will, in time honoured tradition, deservedly prod Johnny Suede in the direction of that status marked "cult".
Brad Pitt is the best thing in this stylish portrait of a man with a big ambition and a big quiff
Reviewed by Jeff Dawson