This movie was the film debut for three people- Peter Gallagher (a 25 year old playing a 17 year old), Joe Pantoliano, and director Taylor Hackford.
Synopsis- Based loosely on the life of the teen idol-maker Bob Marcucci, this film follows the rise and fall of Vincent Vacarri, who finds and molds two teen pop stars.
Music- Since music is the focal point of this film, it obviously is going to be a showboat for some great tunes. The whole thing kind of had a "Commitments" air to it, only darker. I actually tried to find out who wrote the songs featured in the movie, but I couldn't get any info. I also tried to find out who was actually singing them, because it obviously wasn't done live. Some of the synchronization was terrible. But whoever did Peter Gallagher's vocals was fantastic. Ditto for Ray Sharkey. I suspect that Ray Sharkey did Ray Sharkey's vocals. Anyway, the musical numbers were excellent, and the songs were extremely catchy and well done.
Acting- Like I said, this was the feature debut for both Peter Gallagher and Joe Pantoliano (he'd had only small roles). The former has probably looked the same since birth, but the latter is barely recognizable. Peter Gallagher was 25 at the time (everything he did before this was stage acting), playing a 17 year old. But he looked about thirty. He played the part very well, but he didn't look the part. As for Pantoliano, I thought his character was underdeveloped, but whatever.
Some of the scriptwriting was a little weak. Everyone was from Da Bronx or whatever, so they had the accents that go with that image. There were a few too many "fuggettabahtit"s for my taste. There was also an ENTIRE conversation spoken ONLY in Italian, with no subtitles. I caught about a fifth of it. A fourth at best. I suppose subtitles would have ruined the mood, but they're relying a little too much on my ability to understand foreign languages, and the body language wasn't quite good enough for anyone with literally no knowledge of Italian or even Spanish (which would be most people), to understand what the hell is going on.
So basically, I'm going to make the comparison to The Commitments again. The Commitments is Alan Parker's big flick about a Dublin, Ireland soul group (soul was, um... not terribly big in Dublin). They put together an actual group, like they did in the Blues Brothers, and they played their own songs. Andrew Strong was the lead vocalist, and his voice gives me heart palpitations. The music here is good and bluesy, and reminiscent of 1950's and 60's Motown and post-Motown soul and R&B. The mood was comedic but vaguely dark. I HIGHLY recommend it. I won't say I recommend it more than the Idolmaker, but maybe as a companion.
The thing about the Idolmaker that's different, is that it follows the careermaker rather than the group or groups specifically. It also gives kind of a light into the music business at the time, especially in that area. Dramatized, of course, but not entirely inaccurate. And it has very few strictly comedic moments. I laughed a bit, but it was mostly to avoid feeling awkward on behalf of the characters. All in all it's a very well acted dramatic movie. With really great music.
Other movies featuring these actors
Ray Sharkey- The Grifters, Short Circuit, Murphy's Romance, Dragnet, Who'll Stop the Rain
Peter Gallagher- American Beauty, Ratcatcher, The Player, Bob Roberts, Short Cuts
Joe Pantoliano- The Godfather Part II, Risky Business, The Goonies, Empire of the Sun, The Fugitive, The Matrix, Memento, Cats and Dogs
Olympia Dukakis- Mafia!, Mr. Holland's Opus, Jeffrey, Mighty Aphrodite, Tales of the City, Working Girl, Moonstruck, The Wanderers