LOOKING FOR AN ECHOR
The closing credits of Looking for an Echo do a deep bow in the direction of a handful of the more famous doo-wop aggregates that galvanized a generation of rock-'n'-rollers from the mid-'50s to the mid-'60s. Many of these were just guys from the neighborhood who happened to look good on stage and, with any luck, had their 15 minutes of fame.
In the case of the band at hand, the magic of their moment together marked-and ill-prepared-them for life. Now that their glory days are long-gone, they wind up-like the song-looking for an echo, something in their humdrum lives worth the humming, as they sink without a trace back into the neighborhood from which they had sprung.
Vince Pirelli, once lead singer for 'Vinnie and the Dreamers,' now tends bar and plays bar mitzvahs in Bay Ridge. He has lived to be 50 only because he cashed in his chips early and walked away from rock 'n' roll, leaving the backup guys in dry-dock, nursing lifelong resentments. Being a widower for ten years has made a better dad than you might expect for an old rocker. His small world revolves around his children-two sons (one a cop, the other a musician) and a 14-year-old daughter who is coping with leukemia. Then, a late-blooming romance enters this drab picture in the form of the daughter's nurse, clearing Vince's head as well as-it happily turns out-his musical chords.
This is a simple little life-sized lark of a movie. You know it comes from the heart because it comes from Martin Davidson-a wistfully real addendum to his other R&R love-offerings, 1974's The Lords of Flatbush (which got the careers of Henry Winkler and Sylvester Stallone in gear) and 1983's Eddie and the Cruisers (which did much the same sort of thing for Tom Berenger and Michael Par). Because 'Vinnie and the Dreamers' is really 'Eddie and the Cruisers' minus the mystique, there's a touching sadness to the film, and it reverberates in the splendid, effortless performances.
Armand Assante as Vince is both a fallible father and a vulnerable lover struggling to get back into the game. His romantic interest, Diane Venora, equips herself well as usual and has rarely looked better on film. In the sidekick slot is the peerless Joe Grifasi, a winning presence in every scene. Indeed, the other boys in the band have been cast dead-on with plausibly past-their-prime types who give off telltale glimmers of their golden days.
Producer-director Davidson, who co-wrote the excellent script with Jeffrey Goldenberg and Robert Held, tips his T.L.C. in the musical interludes, which are leisurely extended and executed 'con amore.' Kenny Vance produced and supervised the music, which all adds up to a terrific original motion picture soundtrack CD (from Sin-Drome Records).
In its quiet, grounded way, Looking for an Echo qualifies as the last installment in Davidson's trilogy on revisited rock 'n' roll. It makes a sweetly appealing postscript.