Netflix Instant Pick: Empire Records

Every week we recommend a movie we love that is available via Netflix instant view, the greatest thing ever created! Enjoy!

One of the great things about Netflix is coming across a movie you had no idea was on instant streaming, because if you had known, you would have watched it 100 hundred times by now. Finding Empire Records last night was just such a surprise.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the film, it reminds me a lot of The Breakfast Club, as it deals with high school aged young adults struggling to make it through adolescence alive (literally, in some cases). The only difference is the audience isn’t seeing cookie cutout representatives of standard high school cliques, but kids taking their place on a spectrum of mental insanity. Which makes for some pretty strange but lovable characters.

Netflix actually streams a special “fan” version of this film, which is a good deal longer than the original and does a great job of giving fans of the film more insight into the individual plotlines of each character (As a side note: If you are interested in learning more about the editing process in filmmaking I strongly encourage you to view original versions of films and then their unedited counterparts. And always ask yourself why the filmmaker decided to deep six certain scenes. It’s an awesome exercise!).

ANYWAY, the story follows this group of kids working at an independent record store on the verge of becoming, gasp!, a corporate franchised “Music Town.” The night manager, Lucas (Rory Cochrane), stumbles across the franchising contracts late at night during his closing shift. Like any red-blooded American boy, proud of this place of employment and protective of boss Joe’s (Anthony LaPaglia) dignity, he takes money from the safe and goes to Atlantic City in an attempt to win a fortune to save Empire Records.

Unfortunately, there are few teenage craps champions in this world, and we know that poor Lucas will loose everything and return to a very angry Joe, who must now come up with the missing money or risk losing Empire Records for good. Lucas’ late night gambling excapade is the catalyst that sets the rest of the story into motion, as we learn more about each of the employees at Empire Records, and Lucas’ unique and close relationship with store manager Joe. He undoubtedly becomes a surrogate parent to each of the kids, and while most times he feels inclined to beat them to death, he feels a great responsibility to them.

The Empire Records store plays an integral part in the film. I love movies where the locale it essentially another character in the movie. We can tell that the store is a safe haven for the teens, and that music is a life raft not only for them but for their loyal customers. There are countless scenes and shots in the movie that portray customers with oversized headphones dancing, swaying, making out,  and sometimes crying to their favorite artists. The film is definitely a not so subtle love letter to the importance of music and more importantly those grungy, gritty, poster infested independent music stores we love so dearly.

The film has a stellar cast including Anthony LaPaglia, Rory Cochrane, Renee Zellweger, and Liv Tyler.

Watch it now!