At first glance, it seems that Michael and Gerard Cuesta’s slow-moving indie flick, Roadie, might give us some insight into the life of a real roadie or show us what it’s really like out there. Unfortunately for us and for the protagonist, Jimmy Testagross (Ron Eldard), that dream is over. After years of service to the band Blue Oyster Cult, he’s fired without so much as a thank you. He goes home with his tail between his legs and he’s too ashamed to tell his mother that he’s been fired.
He has to face the disappointment his mother will show, but avoids that by saying he’s only staying for a few days until the band leaves on a South American tour. He’s also got her believing that he’s the tour manager and that he even writes a few of their songs. But that’s not what really tests Jimmy. We all know he’ll eventually have to tell his mom, but when he runs into an old high school girlfriend, Nikki (Jill Hennessy) and her husband Randy (Bobby Cannavale), who used to be the local asshole and still calls him Jimmy “Testicles” we see just how hard it is to come home with nothing.
After a little trip down memory lane with Nikki in his old high school bedroom, we find Jimmy blasting the same old music he used to love to drown out his sorrows over the high school asshole getting his girl. Jimmy left home after high school and returns to the same exact life, only he’s done nothing to grow or change so he gets stuck in the same old patterns. The plot ambles along as Jimmy acts like a teenager, following along with his old friends and looking on while Randy steals a bottle of liquor for their hotel party before Nikki’s acoustic set at the local bar. He says he doesn’t want to participate in their festivities, but peer pressure gets the best of him and he joins in, perhaps a little too hard.
Jimmy’s experience is something I think we all fear to some degree. We never want to go home with nothing to show for 20 years of our lives. We want to be grown up, different. We want to have gone places and experienced amazing things, so that at least if we end up right back where we started, we have something to show for it. Jimmy doesn’t get that and that’s why we see him fall into those patterns just as he would have when he was 17. The silver lining of what should be a complete downer is that while his interaction with his old high school comrades is the main action of the plot, the film also treats the situation as though it’s not the end of the world. It’s never too late to grow up. It’s never over. Plans change and you have to adjust your dreams and goals to fit what your life has become, but it’s not the worst.
Of course, this is aided by the fact that Jimmy is such a lovable character, thanks in great part to Eldard’s charm. Even when he gets into hard drugs and plays follow the leader with Randy’s antics to impress Nikki like a horny 15 year-old, we’re rooting for him. We want him to make a fool of Randy, we want him to get the girl, but that’s not what the story is about. Whether or not he gets what he wants, the story is about him having to face the consequences of his continued adolescence. It makes us, as viewers, ask ourselves a question: when is it time to just grow up? What does growing up mean? Clearly, being married or owning a business or having a job doesn’t make someone an adult. The film makes that clear and it makes us evaluate our own lives. Would we be able to face our old high school flames today? What would they think? And does it really matter?