By Rob Blackwelder
Meek, geeky, mop-topped and transparently insecure, Rodney Bigenheimer is the most unlikely rock'n'roll icon in the world. But as this bittersweet documentary shows, the now-fading DJ for Los Angeles' once-cutting-edge KROQ has been -- for 30-plus years -- such a hanger-on extraordinaire that just about everyone big in pop music counts him as a friend.
Allegedly abandoned as a teenager on actress Connie Stevens' doorstep (she wasn't home) by his mother in the late 1960s (leading to a wickedly obsessive Oedipal complex), Rodney crashed on couches and fell into the uninhibited Sunset Strip scene, soon becoming a Monkees stand-in, a procurer and collector of groupies, an in-crowd nightclub owner and an incredibly influential pioneer in the alternative music scene -- in no small part responsible for launching the careers of Devo, the Sex Pistols, Dramarama, Blondie, No Doubt, Coldplay and dozens of other bands (who all lend songs to the soundtrack).
Directed by George Hickenlooper (what is with these people's crazy names?), this energetic, empathetic film features an amazing array of vintage photographs and Super-8 film footage, and dozens of interviews with rock stars (David Bowie, Cher, Courtney Love, Joan Jett, Alice Cooper, Nancy Sinatra, the list goes on) as it follows modest, apprehensive Rodney's tide-drifting career, which seems to be in an awkward, melancholy decline in the film's unblinking present of 2003.
An uncommonly -- and sometimes uncomfortably -- intimate film, "The Mayor of Sunset Strip" is destined to be a landmark of the rockumentary subgenre.
***1/2 out of ****
(94m | R)