The Buddy Holly Story (1978)

“The Buddy Holly Story” is one of those perfectly fine biopics that plays well on a sunny Saturday afternoon. It’s not particularly structured like a Hollywood biopic, mostly skipping over Buddy Holly’s childhood and starting at the beginning of his singing career, which is a nice, refreshing change for those of us with no knowledge of the performer. Frankly, childhood stuff is never particularly interesting to me in a biopic because it’s mostly just insincere, revisionist cult-of-personality pabulum, so I commend screenwriter Robert Gittler for focusing on the ins-and-outs of Holly’s career and its impact on his ambitions as a family man rather than on hokey sentimentality. It’s also the right move from a narrative perspective, because let’s face it, Holly himself wasn’t a particularly fascinating public personality. He was basically a gleeful music geek who reveled in the burgeoning mainstreaming of rock and roll music, and the most interesting thing about him as a central character is how Gary Busey plays him; I don’t think I realized that Busey was once a respected character actor until I watched this, and his screen presence here is perfectly tailored to the role. He’s also well-matched by frequent onscreen co-stars Don Stroud (as Jesse) and an especially endearing Charles Martin Smith as Ray Bob, whose ebullience is effectively contrasted with Busey’s careful, studied approach.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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