Is there life after rock stardom, the excitement, the parties, the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll? ‘California Solo’ explores just that question. And ultimately, the answer has to be, yes, but not much. There just might be too much in the way of fame, money and excitement to ever really get over. Ah, but all that recklessness has consequences and even burying oneself in a farm can’t stop the guilt and the pain, though copious amounts of alcohol does numb it all a bit.
Lachlan MacAldonich’s (Carlyle) career ended abruptly when his brother, the real power behind the rock band he was in, tragically died. Lachlan just didn’t want to go back to Scotland and face the music (pun intended), so he got his green card and dug his heels into the rich American dirt, managing an organic farm. All seemed copasetic until he was arrested for a DUI (I’m sure long overdue based on his habitual drinking), and a small infraction many years before involving marijuana rose to the surface, threatening his equilibrium in the U.S.
Though a nice enough guy, Lachlan is an obvious magnet for trouble and someone I would avoid if I met him at a Farmer’s Market. There is really nothing compelling about this character, though I have been a fan of Carlyle’s since he first terrified me in ‘Trainspotting’ (1996) and endeared himself to me in ‘The Full Monty’ (1997). ‘California Solo’ doesn’t offer him the acting challenges these previous roles did, or maybe he just makes it look so easy. If you’re a fan, you have to watch his multi-layered and fascinating work on ‘Once Upon a Time’ (on Sunday nights). From a Gollum-like character, dangerous and slimy, to a heartbroken father, husband and lover — both are convincing and hypnotic. He’s the best thing in the show.
One problem I had with the film was Carlyle’s Scottish brogue which was so thick as to be often incomprehensible. You would think after the many years the character of Lachlan has spent in the U.S., he might have smoothed it out a bit. In ‘Once Upon A Time’, as both Mr. Gold and Rumplestiltskin, his accent is different for each character, and even in different stages of development of one character, but always clearly understood. So Lachlan’s accent was a director or actor’s choice. I’m sure many of us lost our way through some of the plot due to it.
Funny how Sean Penn recently played a has-been rock star in “This Must Be The Place” (2012), as an American immigrating to Ireland to avoid taxes while Carlyle embraces the U.S.; the difference being money, of which Lachlan has none. Is this the beginning of a new genre of ‘old rock stars – where are they and what are they doing now’? Time will tell.
Director/Writer: Marshall Lewy
Cast: Robert Carlyle, Alexia Rasmussen, Kathleen Wilhoite, A. Martinez, Danny Masterson, Michael Des Barres
Time: 94 min.
Opening January 11 at the Opera Plaza in San Francisco