Biopic Balls but Entertaining Balls
As entertainment I have always enjoyed the 1989 biopic "Great Balls of Fire!"; the music of Jerry Lee Lewis combined with full on performances from Dennis Quaid and Winona Ryder makes you smile. But as a biopic I don't rate it as whilst it gives you a glimpse at the life of the legend Jerry Lee Lewis who not only gave us great music but also caused controversy when he married his 13 year old cousin it is a movie all about the fun and the outrageous character rather than the fact.
So as I said "Great Balls of Fire!" gives you a glimpse at the life of Jerry Lee Lewis and to highlight this the opening scene sees Jerry as a child crossing to the wrong side of the tracks where he is mesmerised by the piano playing in a bar. The next thing we know is that we are in 1956 Jerry is living with his cousin J.W. Brown, been through two marriages already and is about to sign to Sun Records, in fact the whole previous marriage thing is only mentioned in a jokey moment where Jerry says he was still married when he married his second wife so had only really been married the once.
And that is what goes on throughout the movie as various aspects of Lewis's life are missed out or skimmed over in preference to concentrate on just 3 things; the marriage to his 13 year old cousin Myra Gale Brown, his constant battle with religious cousin Jimmy Swaggart and the rise and fall of his career. As I said as a glimpse at the career of Jerry Lee Lewis it is okay for those who know him purely for his music and exuberant performances but not a movie for those who hoped for more grit and revelations.
But as I said right from the start "Great Balls of Fire!" is more a biopic which reason for being is to entertain rather than inform and it succeeds. Whilst there are only a few really recognizable classics it is full of nostalgic music which is great for fans and the whole recreation of the era is wonderfully vibrant which just adds to the entertainment as do humorous moments where Lewis's success annoys Elvis and Chuck Berry. To put it simply I don't remember anything close to realistic grit or depression in the entire movie with even dark moments played out for entertainment.
But then there is Dennis Quaid and I don't know how authentic he is but he delivers energetic entertainment from start to finish. The wild mannerisms, the crazy eyes and crazier wayward hair and the ego it is a seriously exuberant performance and to put it bluntly it is Dennis Quaid who makes the movie. But at the same time Winona Ryder delivers an equally entertaining performance as cousin Myra Gale with the bobby sock mentality of a 50s teen who thinks her cousin is wild, exciting and cool.
What this all boils down to is that if you want to know the true story of Jerry Lee Lewis find a book but if you want 108 minutes of entertainment and a glimpse at the legend watch "Great Balls of Fire!".