August 12, 2019  (Web Review)

FM

Arrow, 104 min., PG, Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $39.99

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Set against the soft rock music culture of 1970s FM radio, 1978’s FM falls somewhere between an easygoing ensemble piece and a mavericks-vs.-establishment rebellion comedy. Michael Brandon stars as Jeff Dugan, who has turned Q-SKY into the top-rated radio station in Los Angeles by encouraging his eccentric crew of DJs to bring their own musical tastes to the airwaves. When Michael clashes with corporate owners over running army recruitment ads, the loyal staff stages a protest, locking the doors and taking their fight to the people. Eileen Brennan, Martin Mull, Cleavon Little, and Cassie Yates play the crew of radio personalities, and the film features concert performances by Jimmy Buffett and Linda Ronstadt as well as non-musical appearances by Tom Petty and REO Speedwagon. FM marks the directorial debut of Oscar nominated cinematographer John A. Alonzo and he favors characters and atmosphere over story, while adopting a low-key visual style—even shooting some dramatic conflicts behind soundproof glass that play out wordlessly with the music taking over the soundtrack. If it never quite earns its rebel credentials, FM still remains an enjoyable film that pays tribute to a distinctive era of music and radio culture with a likable cast of characters. And the soundtrack rocks, featuring Steely Dan, The Eagles, Steve Miller Band, Doobie Brothers, Bob Seger, Boz Scaggs, and others. Extras include new interviews with Brandon and screenwriter Ezra Sacks, a featurette on the soundtrack, and a photo gallery. A strong optional purchase. (S. Axmaker)