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Film / Empire Records

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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 dramedy directed by Allan Moyle, about a Cloud Cuckoo Lander, a Harvard-bound overachiever, a fun-loving Vamp, two stoners, a laid-back artist and a troubled young woman. They work at a 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.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Corey's sweater which shows off her midriff... rather contradicting when you think of it.
  • Benevolent Boss: Joe tries to be this, and 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. Even when Joe finally snaps at Lucas he's still being nice about it.
  • 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.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: 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.
  • Driven to Suicide: Debra tried to slit her wrists, rather half-heartedly, prior to the beginning of the film.
  • Education Mama: Corey's father. 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.
  • 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.
  • Good Bad Girl: As mentioned above, Gina.
  • Hadaka Apron: Gina, natch, when she displays a problem with Music Town's dress code...
  • Ice-Cream Koan: Lucas's wisdom.
  • Important Haircut: Debra
  • 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.
  • Mama Bear: Joe.
  • Mushroom Samba: "You play a mean guitar, Mark! It's really a shame that you must...DIE!"
  • The '90s: The movie just screams it. 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sweater Girl: Corey.
  • 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.
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: Rex Manning, a male singer variation.
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: A nice version, when Joe finally confronts Lucas for losing the store's money on a foolish gambit.
    • YMMV on how nice. Dialogue implies Joe is Lucas' foster father who took him in after Lucas' own mother abandoned him due to impulse control problems.


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