The road to rock & roll stardom has been the plot of many a poor film, but Hearts of Fire (which arrives on video several years after its extremely brief appearance in theaters) fails on a more ambitious level than most. Beyond its overt flaws — Bob Dylan’s acting, Rupert Everett’s singing, Fiona’s acting and singing — Hearts of Fire has the hubris to cast Dylan more or less as himself in order to offer pseudo-profundities about the arc of fame.
In a premise borrowed from Flashdance, Fiona plays Molol, a combination toll collector and bar-band singer whose dumb luck (or lopsided grin — it can’t possibly be her personality or music) leads her under the wings of both retired rock legend Billy Parker (Dylan) and trendy but troubled British pop icon Jamess Colt (Everett). While the haggard veteran offers only cautionary philosophical wisdom, Colt provides an object lesson by jump-starting Molly’s career and taking her to bed.
Suspending disbelief for the unconnected events, silly dialogue and erratic lip-syncing is one thing. But the unavoidable impression — hammered home by concert sequences — that Parker really is Dylan means accepting the absurdity of his unwavering enthusiasm for a shrill amateur who sings mediocre radio rock. Dylan himself turns in several serviceable performances, most notably on John Hiatt’s ”The Usual.”
Hearts of Fire‘s casting erases the line between reality and fantasy, leaving the unflappable Dylan to contend, not connect, with the film’s other characters. Neither a credible peek inside the music world nor a compelling romance, this will be of interest only to Fiona fans (if any exist) and those / fascinated by anything Dylan does. D+