The rest of the film is spent developing the intertwining stories of each store employee throughout the day as they have their own issues to work out amidst also trying to save their store. Filled with great characters, each with his or her own unique personality, Empire Records sees so many different dynamics unfold. Somehow the stream-of-conscious and episodic narrative all adds up in the end, creating an impressively consistent tone from start to finish.
The cast is very strong from top to bottom, featuring the likes of Renée Zellweger, Liv Tyler, and Ethan Embry, among others. Director Allan Moyle does a great job with the relative newcomers and nabs some effortless performances from just about everybody.
The humor is dry and subtle enough that it doesn’t undermine the more serious and, at times, heavy moments. While the movie is truly a comedy, it also balances poeticism and sentimentality with ease without becoming sappy.
Empire Records isn’t overly concerned with music snobbery, and recognizes that musical taste is subjective. Instead, the film relishes in the different characters that make up our culture and finds beauty in that eclecticism. Because it shouldn’t matter what music you’re into, since each genre adds value to somebody’s life in some way. Those particular sounds we may not be fond of personally can mean the world to the person next to us, encouraging empathy for those with much different tastes and hopefully opening up our own minds to understanding one another.
Deceptively, Empire Records is an important movie in hindsight, especially considering today’s society where we feel like we can only hang out with like-minded individuals, allergic to those who don’t agree with our way of thinking or doing things. But at the same time, this film captures the zeitgeist of a bygone era that most of us long to return to. And perhaps those two sentiments aren’t mutually exclusive. All I know is the ’90s were truly awesome.