Propelled by a smashing perf from Gina Gershon, “Prey for Rock and Roll” emerges as an engaging, upbeat saga of an all-girl band on its way to nowhere in particular. Helmed by ace music supervisor Alex Steyermark and written by punk rocker Cheri Lovedog, pic feels authentic from first frame to last. Dynamite cast (including Drea de Matteo and Lori Petty), sexy chick-on-chick love scenes, totally lived-in smart-mouth dialogue and a wicked sense of humor add up to something for everyone. Skedded for late summer/early fall release, pic should rock on indie circuit, particularly with femme auds.
Lead singer-guitarist Jacki (Gershon) is rounding 40 and wondering whether she should continue to chase her rock ‘n’ roll dreams, or devote herself full-time to her tattoo parlor. As she sees it, it isn’t much of a choice: Either she’ll stay and become a bitter loser, or leave and become a bitter quitter.
Other band members have their own problems. Tracy (Drea de Matteo), on bass guitar, is a trust-fund kid with a drug problem and lousy taste in men. Lead guitarist Faith (Lori Petty) supports her music habit by teaching teens with more enthusiasm than talent, while her younger lover, Sally (Shelly Cole), on drums, has invited her brother Animal, fresh out of jail, to live with them.
“Prey” boasts lots of attitude but little edge. Cheri Lovedog’s script, a thinly veiled autobiography adapted from her play, adheres slavishly to its heroine’s point of view, underscored by Gershon’s seductively sardonic voiceover and dominated by her energy.
The women grapple with child abuse, rape and even death, yet unlike broody rock downers such as “Georgia” or “Things Behind the Sun,” the psychological baggage here doesn’t weigh much.
In Lovedog’s universe, trauma supplies the raw material for songwriting, sometimes to the point of oversimplification. Thus a rape becomes the song “Every Six Minutes,” the stylized intercutting between band members meant to rep their shared anger and support. Far more successful is an ironic tribute to a band member who dies.
Most characters come off as likable beneath their gruff-bitchy surface; those who don’t get a deserved ass-kicking from Jacki. Decidedly in the first category is the menacing jailbird Animal, who turns out to have been named for a Muppet, incarcerated for protecting his sister and still a virgin.
Gershon co-produced pic and sings all her own songs, delivering the goods with a strong, husky voice and style to spare. Pic might have gained depth had helmer Steyermark created some distance from his star’s heroic presence; then again, it might not have played so enjoyably.
Helmer keeps things moving effortlessly. Production, costume and tattoo design maintain pic’s basically clean look without sacrificing bona fide punk feel. Antonio Calvache’s 24P lensing creates a marginal L.A. that’s convincingly funky without getting gritty.