Let's Roll: ROLLER BOOGIE
OK, so it's a poorly acted film. It's plot is recognizable, absolutely predictable from a universal standpoint. The dialogue is too cheesy to even repeat. Depth is not even part of its orbit. In fact it's a wannabe SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER but for roller skating, there's even a brief snippet of the poster shown in the film to prove it. Mark Lester's 1979 ROLLER BOOGIE is a beautiful disaster and I adore it. Aside from all of its shortcomings, and as much as I salivate at the mouth over the 70s era, cinematography shot on actual film, Linda Blair, and of course rollerskating, this film makes my heart flutter like the wing of a hummingbird. Roger Ebert gave this cult classic a one and a half star, stating, "There is a sense in which "Roller Boogie" comes as a refreshing surprise: I didn't think it was still possible, in the dog-eared final days of the 1970s, to have this silly, innocent, lame-brained and naive movie." In a way he's spot on with that 1.5 star, and I have to agree that at times the film does feel more like a badly made cheeseball of a documentary. And if you're looking for a genuine documentary about roller skating and the shutdown of numerous rinks throughout the United States then I can't recommend enough that you watch UNITED SKATES, like right away. Given ROLLER BOOGIE'S low budget roots, many will find its nostalgic spirit strongly valuable. As most people find the familiar, extremely comforting while living during these unstable times which is even more prevalent amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. Marketing bros are like how can we sell to the masses during these shit times? NOSTALGIC COMFORT! I suppose this renewed interest in roller skating has always been there, it never really died, it just needed a new platform *cough, cough* TikTok and Instagram came in for the save. Of course they are equipped to regain the attention of the masses. Clearly, it's marketing's favorite weapon of choice, since it apparently rules the world. Where am I going with this? Uhhh oh right... So the marketing of this 1979 gem was probably not so great in the the early 80's given it came out two months after SKATETOWN, USA, which I haven't seen yet, but hey Patrick Swayze is in it. Bonus! But back to ROLLER BOOGIE...
The opening sequence is a parade, a parade of roller skaters grooving to Cher's "Hell On Wheels". Let the images and song marinate in your brain like soaking shish kabobs in soy sauce. The choreography is stunning, it evokes a wave of movement that feels effortless and exhibits a flow of euphoria. The milieu of the film permeates fabulously, shiny-sequin, retro-charged, quad rolling, disco raving extravaganza with a charming can-do spirit. And if you're interested in the premise. The story goes like this: a poor boy named Bobby (Jim Bray, non actor, real life roller skater) meets a wealthy girl named Terry (Linda Blair, former demon child of the Exorcist) both spark a romantic interest and both want to win the roller disco contest, but there's always a pothole in the road. You see, the roller rink business is incredibly challenging to maintain given the rise in property taxes, increased land values, changing zoning laws, and the ongoing threat of new developments. Which is precisely the same threat in ROLLER BOOGIE. Shiesty businessmen shutting down a roller rink, which will boost their reputation and monetary gain by building a shopping mall. I mean malls had their hay day and remember how long that lasted? It's no wonder everything is a shit show today. In fact why not just convert dead shopping malls into three leveled roller rinks? It would be incredible. Oh what a dream.
Stating the obvious here but, Venice Beach hasn't changed much with the exception of a rise in population of unhoused people who have now turned into a tiny village of tiny houses catered to those who want a life of nomadic proclivities, but I digress. Venice Beach still exhibits a crowd of roller skaters, skateboarders, bikers, nudists, ventriloquists, musicians, men dressed in bunny suits smoking weed and people selling their art while living in vans with a breathtaking view at sunset along the ocean.
ROLLER BOOGIE salutes a bygone era that transcends to present day in many ways, especially among many enthusiasts who continue to keep roller skating alive. So, confession from a cinephile/filmmaker over here, 'Personally, I myself would love to reboot Roller Boogie'. I would cast all the recent Instagram fame babes who roller skate their hearts out and really generate a happy medium among a community where people cheer each other on instead of chastising one another. It's not about who has the best moves or is the most popular, what is this high school? It's about what roller skating makes you feel. I feel connected to myself when I roll because there's a sense of freedom attached to it. A sense of wellbeing that ignites happiness.' So thank you Mark Lester for capturing the essence of roller skating in 1979. It's pure and exciting to create something with gorgeous movement especially when it's on celluloid. Gorgeous.