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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Satisfaction' Gets Caught in a Time Warp

February 17, 1988|MICHAEL WILMINGTON

Watching "Satisfaction" (citywide) sometimes feels like being dropped into a time-warping Vegematic. This is a movie--supposedly about an '80s rock band--where the songs date from the '60s, the language and sexual attitudes suggest the '70s and the plot is pure '50s.

The basic idea has some unrealized promise: an all-girl garage band, with a hastily added male classical keyboardist, is hired for the summer at an Atlantic Ocean beach resort.

There, the street-tough rockers clash with rich, vacuous locals and various romantic misadventures blossom. The bassist, Daryle (Joan Roberts), is followed by her randy boyfriend; the keyboard player, Nickie (Scott Coffey), falls for the hard-as-nails drummer, Mooch (Trini Alvarado); the druggie lead guitarist, Billy (Britta Phillips), communes blearily with a dog on the beach; and the lead singer, Jennie Lee (Justine Bateman), embarks on a star-crossed encounter with her employer, burnt-out '60s superstar Martin Falcon (Liam Neeson). Billy has the best relationship.

Director Joan Freeman ("Streetwalkin' ") gets some pretty, offbeat compositions and some energy in the performances. But writer Charles Purpura--who wrote the amusing parochial school sendup, "Heaven Help Us"--seems to have lost his grip, or had it pulled away from him.

Despite the movie's ruinous cliches, Neeson puts some genuine anguish into his phonily written scenes as the '60s burnout. Bateman plays to him well, and Phillips, making her feature debut, has some funny moments in the flashy kook role.

All four lead actresses and Coffey actually play music and sing during "Satisfaction" (MPAA rated: PG-13--despite rough language and sexual scenes), though the sound-mixing and camera angles occasionally suggest otherwise. That they perform this well is a tribute to their music producer and coach, ex-Stax Band guitarist Steve Cropper, who also does a cameo as a bartender and who has few peers when it comes to classic '60s rock styles.

'SATISFACTION' A 20th Century Fox release of an NBC Productions presentation. Producers Aaron Spelling, Alan Griesman. Director Joan Freeman. Script Charles Purpura. Camera Thomas Del Ruth. Production design Lynda Paradise. Editor Joel Goodman. Music Michel Colombier. Music producer Steve Cropper. Executive producers Rob Alden, Armyan Bernstein. With Justine Bateman, Liam Neeson, Trini Alvarado, Scott Coffey, Britta Phillips, Julia Roberts, Debbie Harry, the Killer Whales.

Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.

MPAA rating: PG-13 (parents are strongly cautioned; some material may be inappropriate for children under 13).

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