Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! (1989) (part 11 of 12)
Then it’s the next day, and Sal is on the beach with his family, and he’s wearing the most unflattering windbreaker on the planet. It’s rainy, it’s winter, but Sal and his family seem to be out there with a dogged determination: We will play in the sand, whether we like it our not, because this is the Jersey shore, darn it!
What comes next is really funny, because Eddie seems to have planned his appearance to have the greatest possible impact on Sal. Eddie comes up from a distance along the edge of the surf, partly obscured at first in the mist, so that Sal might think he’s seeing things. And just look at him. Not only did he shave off his mustache and sideburns, but he also put on the Eddie Wilson costume of a black sleeveless tee and a leather jacket. (And now we know why we just got that clip from Eddie I—so we could see that Eddie was wearing this outfit back then.) So Eddie didn’t just come visit his friend for a heart to heart, which he could have done in Joe West digs. No, he had to make an entrance as Eddie Wilson, back from the dead. Because as always, it’s all about him.
And yet, at the same time Eddie seems really isolated and uncomfortable, much like he is throughout the movie. His reluctance to get involved is tattooed on his forehead. But you get the impression it’s not Paré that’s hanging back—it’s Eddie. The protagonist himself seems to think this movie just isn’t a good idea. He’s like, “C’mon, guys, stop following me. You’re wasting film.” So not only is Eddie’s character smarter than anyone else in the film, he’s also smarter than the filmmakers! Funny thing is, I even started to feel sorry for the guy, being trapped in a crappy sequel. I wanted to buy him a bus ticket back to Montreal.
Sal turns livid when he sees who it is. He actually takes a swipe at Eddie [!] and starts cursing him out. They scuffle ineptly. Sal demands to know why Eddie walked out on his best friend, and Eddie just shrugs and says he couldn’t handle it. But he’s back because he’s scared and he needs Sal’s help. I think he’s forgotten all the cryptic analogies he crapped out all over the Cruisers, and wants Sal to remind him so he can use them on his new band. Our music is like an ironing board, Sal. You understand?
Sal is unmoved by Eddie’s plea. “What about all the times I needed your help?” he asks, walking off. Zing! Now if only Sal had kept walking, this second unnecessary Asbury scene would be over, and the movie could limp to its final pathetic demise. But Eddie rushes after him, fighting to keep his leather jacket from blowing off, which makes him look rather less “cool” than he did two minutes ago. (Sal’s windbreaker may be ugly, but it works!)
Eddie tearfully apologizes and pleads for Sal’s forgiveness, and Sal softens up, even though an uppercut right now would totally lay Eddie out. They hug, which would have been touching had Eddie not led into it with “C’mere, you.” Sorry, not even Bogie can get away with “C’mere, you.” Was that in the script (lame) or did Paré ad lib it (even lamer)?
Cut to a boarded up church, with Sal grilling Eddie in voiceover about coming there for the mystery tapes. So, I guess they’ve driven to Lakehurst. (Did the movie immediately forget Sal’s family? I know I did.)
Eddie talks about Wendell setting up the sessions, and during this we get an extended clip of the recording of “Emotional Storm” with a bunch of black musicians, including Wendell Newton. I guess we’re supposed to think this is from the first movie, or outtakes from it, but when we get shots of Paré it’s clear this was filmed for the second movie. We’ve had ample looks at Paré in the first movie through the copious use of flashbacks, and he just looks completely different now.
Quite apart from the fact that he’s put on twenty pounds of muscle, he’s also got tighter skin in his face, and his hair is different. All I’m saying is it’s a bad idea to fill your movie with clips from a film made six years ago, and then drop in a retrofitted scene filmed now, with an actor who looks different enough to make you almost wonder whether the part was recast. It would be like if all the Luke scenes in Return of the Jedi were riddled with clips from Star Wars.
Anyway, we finally get a little more insight into Eddie’s missing persons act. During the Lakehurst sessions, Eddie was bowled over to be performing with these jazz greats, while “for them it was just another night of jamming.” This made him think maybe he wasn’t good enough. And just as he was facing this, Wendell died, so he just left, because he blamed himself.
|Eddie: I coulda saved him. I was pushing the band to get a sound, and I didn’t care about anybody.|
Hey, what’s with the past tense, Eddie? Quick, what’s your keyboard player’s last name? Whatever. Sal tells Eddie to stop worrying about Wendell and being great and just go out there and play the best he can. And stay in school! (Whoa, my hallucinations are coming back.)
Eddie offers Sal a spot in his new band (so much for Quinn, I guess) but Sal wisely declines. He admits that the Cruisers might have been holding Eddie back (which assumes that Eddie wouldn’t have dropped them like a hot rock to get where he wanted to be anyway, which, in a sense, he did) and maybe this time he’ll get it right. And then Martha Quinn will say he’s “really it”!
Music festival time! Look, the bleachers are filling up! It looks like a stadium (more on that in a minute), and there sure is a lot of Pepsi around. Cut to Eddie and Rick trading “thanks-to-you-man”s while the band hangs out in a lobby somewhere [?].
Rick is called backstage to meet “some people” (hmm, who could that be?). A chick hands Eddie a telegram, which reads “Eddie Lives / Love Sal” (accompanied by one last ghostly invocation of the intro to “ODS”). This would be poignant, except I think it’s Sal’s joking reference to the Satin Records “Eddie Lives” campaign that Eddie seems to know nothing about, since it happened while they were on the road. And since he’s getting poignant telegrams before the big show, where are the big bouquets of red roses? Where’s the stage manager squeaking, “Fifteen seconds to curtain, Mr. Wilson!”? If you’re going to do a cliché, you might as well go the whole nine yards, I say.
And here comes Rick, and look who he’s got in tow: Lew and Dennis Miller Guy, who both came up for the Montreal Spring Music Festival. I guess they analyzed the tape Rick sent and decided it might be the real Eddie, or someone they could use. Wait, I’m thinking about this movie more than the filmmakers did, aren’t I? Eddie’s eyes bug out (remember, he knew Lew from before, and saw both of them at the look-alike contest) and he tries to bail. It’s now come down to Eddie Wilson literally trying to escape his past.
Rick and the Satin gang catch up to him, and Eddie keeps his back to them, until Rick explains Satin wants to sign the band based on the demo tape Rick sent them. How many unsolicited demo tapes does a record company get every week, anyway? I’m picturing Lew sitting in his office, listening to five minutes from each one and tossing them in a huge trash heap one after another, muttering, “Is this Eddie Wilson? No. Is this? No. This one? Nuts.”
Once again, Rick is blindsided by Eddie’s rage (how clueless is this guy?). But when Eddie rounds on Rick to chew him out, Lew gets a good look at him and recognizes him, and if Lew were a cartoon there would be a cha-ching! sound, and dollar signs in his eyes, and his mouth would turn into a money till. But of course he’s not a cartoon, but rather a fully articulated, complex and multi-dimensional human being, with a wife at home who loves him, and no doubt a bright-eyed, college-age daughter named Meadow.
Lew promises to do things Eddie’s way this time, but Eddie once again turns to his number one method for coping with everything, which is to make an Eddie-Wilson-shaped hole in the nearest wall. Eddie Wilson has left the building! Honestly, the concept behind the phrase “the show must go on” would completely mystify this prick. I firmly believe that in Eddie’s mind, the band and the audience are there to perform a service for him.
Dennis Miller Guy catches up to Eddie outside and tries his patented hard sell, and in response Eddie decks him [!]. Well, that’s fair. After all, millions of people now know and love your music because of him, which is a personal injury that can never be assuaged.