Jennie is a rising star from a rough neighbourhood in Baltimore. Valedictorian of her high school class and accepted to all the colleges she applied for, she is ready for her life to start. But first, summer’s here and she and her friends are up for some fun. The girls like to get into shenanigans, which sometimes results in one of them getting in trouble with local gangs or law enforcement, but Jennie is a friend to the end and a real voice of reason.
For starters, she knows how to spend the next few months. You see, Jennie and her buds are in a rock ‘n roll band called The Mystery and they will get outta this town this summer if it kills them. They have big plans: head down to West Palm Beach, Florida to audition for a local dive bar owner. Hopefully, they can get the gig of a lifetime!
Obstacles get in their way, however, but nothing they can’t deal with. Jennie’s brother and caretaker refuses to let her go fearing her high ambitions for band life will trump her pursuits at College (he obviously relents). Daryle, the bassist, got engaged to her boyfriend at graduation, and now doesn’t want to leave, but quickly decides the opportunity is too good to pass up and dumps his sorry ass for Florida. The band’s keyboardist, Amy, is in the clink, so Jennie hastily recruits her neighbor, Nick, a budding classical pianist, to perform with them. Drummer, Mooch, ticks off a gang member who destroys the band’s ride. In return, Mooch and fellow guitarist, Billy, rip off the gang member’s van when he wasn’t looking. See? Problems solved! Nothing can stop the girls now! Everything is in motion as The Mystery drive into the sunset singing Iko Iko; just the girls plus one dude.
They arrive in West Palm Beach only to get to the local bar, Falcon’s, to find it shuttered and the owner, Martin Falcon, nowhere to be found. They track him down at his home drunk as a skunk and reluctant to let them audition, but eventually relents. Marty Falcon’s lingering eyes take a long look over all the pretty girls and the band gets hired for the summer. And really, The Mystery are more than pretty faces, they are the best cover band in the land! They can sing well enough, and damn, Jennie is a whip with the cowbell. …So much cowbell…
I remember seeing Satisfaction the weekend of its release in February 1988. Those were the days when my sis and I pretty much went to every movie released in the theatre in Sudbury, without much regard to what the film was about. Really, though, with a film about an all-girl rock band struggling to get their fame right out of high school; we were all over it. The film starred Justine Bateman as Jennie (Family Ties, anyone?), Scott Coffey as Nick (Some Kind of Wonderful), Julia Roberts in her first feature film role, playing Daryle, and Debbie Harry in a 2-second role as Tina, Marty’s sometimes lover. This fantasy story where parents let their teenaged daughters the freedom to drive from Maryland to Florida by themselves for summer break was foreign to us, but that plot element really stuck with me. When it recently popped up in the guide, I decided to watch it again 30 years later and see if it stood up. Thankfully, I had forgotten most of the dark themes laid bare in Satisfaction, because, this band road-trip movie could have been fun, but watching it back today, it is more of a cautionary tale.
To start, I would definitely be remiss if I failed to mention Liam Neeson was in this film as Martin Falcon, and *spoiler alert* how he quickly becomes Jennie’s love interest in the film. Before you calculate the math, Liam was 35 years old in ’88…and Justine was playing someone who was 17. Does this qualify as “it was a different time?” ‘Cause, I can tell you that watching this May-September romance made me feel squeamish – even in 1988. I remember my sis and I joked uncomfortably in the theatre how we’d never get with someone like Liam; he was OLD! And besides him not being George Michael, Neeson’s teeth were stained, and breath likely smelled of all the baccy he was chain-smoking on film. Bleh! What’s worse, Jennie fell hard for Martin, but he did not reciprocate those feelings, so when she proposed she move in with him, he balked and just wanted to keep things physical. Ouch. Not a feel-good outcome.
Then again, there are even darker themes in Satisfaction that don’t make one feel great. Aside from the socio-economic predicament the band find themselves, how about an attempted rape scene between Julia Roberts’ character and some guy she picked up at a party? Or Billy O.D.ing on pills because she can’t handle the pressure?
On a lighter side, the film tries too hard to back-pedal away from its themes of drugs and violence against women to a gaggy cuteness. How about the beach volleyball game that went on way too long where the band play against professionals (and you can only guess how that went)? Or when Billy befriended Martin’s guard dog, Hamlet? Or the musical cut scenes where the band starts singing acapela with each other using sticks and bottles as instruments? Blech.
Let’s talk about the music which, aside from maybe two original songs, are mostly cover tunes. On the menu are (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Mr. Big Stuff, Iko Iko, and Knock on Wood, which were pretty much rotated several times throughout the movie and heavily accompanied by so much cowbell. Justine Bateman steps in as the singer for these tracks, which pretty much comes off as very karaoke.
Satisfaction tries really hard to be something cool but its story is overworked and does way too much to try to cater to every genre. Is this a drama? Is this a romance? Is this a comedy? Because it didn’t do either very well. As a result, it really doesn’t hold a candle to the teen movie greats of the era.
2.5 / 5
Starring: Justine Bateman, Liam Neeson, Julia Roberts, Scott Coffey and Debbie Harry