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Film / Empire Records

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From left to right: Debra, Mark, Lucas, Corey, AJ, and Gina. Not pictured: Joe.

Debra: I guess nobody really has it all together.
Corey: No.
Debra: I feel like I should welcome you to the neighborhood or something.

A 1995 Slice of Life dramedy film, directed by Allan Moyle and featuring an Ensemble Cast that includes Anthony LaPaglia, Robin Tunney, Renée Zellweger, Liv Tyler, and Debi Mazar.

It depicts a day in the life of a Cloudcuckoolander, a Harvard-bound overachiever, a fun-loving Vamp, two stoners, a laid-back artist, and a troubled young woman. They all work at a Delaware record store under the aegis of a Benevolent Boss and a not-so-benevolent owner. An aging singer is visiting for the day. They must save the store, make discoveries about themselves, and rock out to the very best of mid-nineties alternative music.

Tropes used in this film:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Warren, whose real name is never revealed. He kind of brought it on himself by being a smart-ass and giving his name as "Warren Beatty"... Then everyone who was present for his attempted shoplifting immediately started calling him Warren, and it caught on enough that people who weren't around at the time genuinely thought that was in fact his name. By the end of the movie, he's accepted it; the ID card the store issues him as a new employee reads "Hi, my name is Warren".
  • Actor Allusion: A Dazed and Confused sticker is seen by the till. Rory Cochrane (Lucas) played Slater in Dazed & Confused.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: Mark wants to start a band called Marc.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Whatever happened between Berko and Deb was enough to make Berko think Deb's suicide attempt was because of him but the details are never elaborated on.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: AJ tries to do this with Corey on the roof of the store, just when he thinks it's the right time for it. Corey, however, had just gone through an embarrassing moment with Rex Manning and isn't in the mood for it. She calms down later and they hook up after all.
  • Aside Glance: At the beginning, just after Lucas loses the store's money at the craps table, he looks at the camera and asks aloud, "I wonder if I'll be held responsible for this?" He does it several more times throughout the film.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: The employees host a fake funeral for Debra to show how much they love her. It only sort of makes more sense in context.
  • Bowdlerise: The version of Coyote Shivers' "Sugarhigh" performed in the film includes a couple of significantly toned-down lyrics: "they all said she's just another groupie slut" becomes "they all say life's just a bowl of cherries, but..." and "when I lick between your thighs" becomes "I wanna kiss myself goodbye". The version included on the soundtrack album uses the uncensored lyrics.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Jane is this for Rex Manning. She starts her day just trying to keep Rex's ego afloat, and ends the day having quit out of embarrassment for supporting such a Jerkass has-been and asks Joe for a job.
  • Benevolent Boss: Joe may be temperamental, but he always takes care of his own. The staff respect him for it even though it becomes clear during the movie that Joe is stressed out with how the store is struggling and may cave to the demands that he sell out to the record chain. He could have Lucas arrested at any time, but as a father figure to Lucas, he can never bring himself to do it. Even when Joe finally snaps at Lucas and beats his ass, he's still being nice about it. It's notable that, when Warren comes back to the store waving a gun, Joe is the first one to put himself in danger, since Warren's ire is largely with him. In the end, he really proves his loyalty to his staff by personally buying the store off of their petulant Bad Boss.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Lucas addresses the camera a few times throughout the movie.
  • Censor Shadow: An odd distortion effect is used to obscure the phallic part of Gwar lead singer Dave Brockie's costume during the scene where Mark watches the band on TV.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Mark and Lucas. (Although it's implied that Lucas's is a recent case.)
  • Cooldown Hug: Happens twice, one right after the other. First while Gina the resident Good Bad Girl is freaking out. The second with Corey after her stress/revelation induced freakout. One of them is successful.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: When asked for relationship advice by AJ, Joe casually makes a remark about a wife that left him for another woman, and how his girlfriend "forced [him] to leave at gunpoint." No more information is given about either of these events.
  • A Day In The Life: The movie plays out as a Slice of Life episode, a "Working At Empire Records" kind of day as we watch the employees cope being there. Subverted in that half the cast are going through personal dilemmas, the store itself is facing doom being overtaken by a corporate entity, and it's Rex Manning Day.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Debra and Lucas.
    • Even Joe has his moments:
    (Joe is talking to the police after Warren has been collared for shoplifting)
    Joe: (to Warren) How old are you?
    Warren: Old enough to kick your butt through your skull and splatter your brains on the wall.
    Joe: (to the police) Yeah, he's a juvenile.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: A worried Joe tries to have a talk with Debra over whatever she's dealing with, but she's not in any place to accept that, and she brushes off his attempt.
    Debra: Gonna fix me, Joe? Okay, fix me, I'll listen.
  • Driven to Suicide: Debra tried to slit her wrists, rather half-heartedly, prior to the beginning of the film.
  • Education Mama: Corey's father is never seen, but described to be like this. It's one of the reasons why Corey is stressed out on pills trying to over-achieve.
  • Exact Words: Joe sits Lucas down on a break-room couch and orders him not to leave said couch. So once Joe leaves the room, Lucas gets up and wanders the store freely... while carrying a couch cushion under his arm.
  • Gallows Humor: Debra, the morning after surviving her suicide attempt, has an embittered sense of humor about it. It's partly born out of her habit of pushing people away.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Yes, Corey can be a girl's name too.
  • Girlfriend in Canada:
    Lucas: *upon noticing his one stolen CD* Whitney Houston?
    Warren: It's for my girlfriend.
    Lucas: Yeah, right.
  • Glory Days: Rex Manning's are very much behind him. Any positive attention he gets is from the parents of the current generation of teenagers, the latter of whom have little more than contempt for him.
  • Go-Getter Girl: Corey deconstructs this. She does well in school, but that's partly because she's addicted to speed. Her go-getter attitude also drives her to try seducing Rex Manning for her first sexual encounter, which goes poorly.
  • Good Bad Girl: As mentioned above, Gina. She's not sorry about being promiscuous, though it will hurt her feelings if you taunt her for it.
  • Hadaka Apron: Gina, natch, when she displays a problem with Music Town's dress code...
  • He's Got a Weapon!: Warren Beatty's revenge on the store in the back half of the film involves a handgun. Of all people, it's Debra that makes him crack and go into a Motive Rant instead.
  • Ice-Cream Koan: Lucas's wisdom. He presents himself to be wiser than he really is, and no one is fooled by his pretentious posturing since, after all, he's the one who lost the $9000 and jeopardized the store.
  • Important Haircut: A day removed from a bad mental health episode and suicide attempt, Debra buzzes all her hair off in the bathroom prior to her shift.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • "Take care of yourself, Warren. Don't let the Man get you down."
    • "Not entirely perfect."
  • Le Parkour: Lucas, masterfully chasing shoplifter Warren back and forth through the store.
  • Mushroom Samba: Mark eating pot brownies and watching a Gwar video brings on one of these.
    Oderus Urungus: You play a mean guitar, Mark! It's really a shame that you must...DIE!
  • Nerves of Steel: An angry Warren Beatty returns to the store with a handgun, at the end of his rope. Who talks him down from his misguided, petulant rage? Debra does, getting Warren to open up about why he's so angry, and staring down the barrel of his gun without even flinching.
  • The '90s: The movie just screams it, which is unavoidable considering when it came out.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Already mad at Lucas for gambling away the store's money, Joe eventually snaps when Lucas overdoes his hipster wisdom act, and drags the teen into his office for an off-screen beating. Subverted in that Joe doesn't leave any severe damage aside from a cut on Lucas' forehead, and they both act afterward as though they both knew it needed to be done. Joe even hands Lucas a towel to take care of that cut.
  • One-Hour Work Week: They seem to have incredibly long all day shifts, but at the same time, most of it is spent hanging out, dancing, listening to music, or performing grunge rock concerts on the roof.
    • Semi-justified in that it's an event day, so it makes sense that every employee would be scheduled for at least part of the day (and some of them want to be there even if they don't have to be, and their manager is extremely lenient), and in that it's made clear that this is an atypical sort of work day in-universe.
  • Only Sane Employee: Joe SCREAMS Liz Lemon Job, particularly when he breaks up the fight between Corey and Gina.
  • Parental Abandonment: Debra has no problem with Joe calling her mom about her failed suicide attempt, just as long as Joe can actually find Debra's mom.
  • The Power of Rock: The attempt to save the store from being converted into a Music Town works thanks to invoking this trope in the form of a Rooftop Concert. They get all the money they need for Joe to buy the store for himself.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Warren Beatty" finally gets fed up with the Accidental Misnaming when he returns to the store with a gun and fulfills the "one f-bomb in a PG-13 movie" quota.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: The 90's grunge version of the wangsta himself, Warren.
  • Right Through His Pants: When Rex and Gina have sex, both of them inexplicably wear their underwear during the act.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The staff give Rex one when Joe kicks him out after having sex with Gina. Rex doesn't even bother with a Lame Comeback in an attempt to save face; he simply accepts that everything they said is probably true with resignation.
  • Re-Cut: A new version of the film was released on DVD in 2003 called the "Remix: Special Fan Edition" which was re-edited and extended.
  • Rooftop Concert: The end of the movie features Coyote Shivers throwing a concert on the roof of the record store, giving Gina the chance to fulfill her dream of performing with a band.
  • Rule of Cool: Sure, in reality it's against the law to perform concerts on top of roofs in a public area and the fine for it would likely exceed the money they earned, but that doesn't matter because it was cool. This is averted in an alternate ending on the DVD where everyone performing is arrested at the end. Including Rex Manning.
  • Running Gag: Just about everyone feels the need to comment on Rex's hair at least once.
  • Saving the World With Art: The film ends with the teens planning a music concert to "damn the man, save The Empire", which will also raise enough funds to save the store.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Corey for Rex Manning. It doesn't end well for Corey when she finds out how much of a Jerkass Rex is.
  • The Stoner: Eddie and Mark both fit.
  • Take This Job and Shove It: Jane decides Screw This, I'm Outta Here after being made fun of one too many times for her association with Rex Manning.
  • Those Two Guys: Eddie and Mark again.
  • Stylistic Suck: Rex Manning's music video. Granted, it's very much in the style of early MTV.
  • Suddenly Shouting: "I'M BRINGING REX HIS LUNCH!!"
  • Toyota Tripwire: Lucas pulls this on Warren as the latter is trying to escape during his shoplifting attempt. Interestingly, the car in question is on a raised platform at a car dealership across the street.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: Mark does one while Warren is holding up the store.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Gina jokes to Corey that Debra hates them both, and that Gina has "the good sense to hate her back." As they serve customers through the day, it quickly becomes apparent that Gina and Debra are not so different, and they're a little more amicable than they let on, starting when they spitefully tear up the list of Music Town regulations together.
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: Rex Manning, a male singer variation. His time as a big rock star has long faded, and the people he signs autographs for all day never let him forget it.
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: When Joe finally confronts Lucas for losing the store's money on a foolish gambit.
    • Dialogue implies Joe is Lucas' foster father, who took him in after Lucas' own mother abandoned him due to impulse control problems.