Making A Strong Case For Peter Case

“Peter Case: A Million Miles Away” Movie Review

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan

What an absolute breath of fresh air. First of all, Peter Case is a very interesting “case” study. He is an old fashioned troubadour who takes his guitar and station wagon and brings music to the people. In a time of instant gratification and electronic delivery systems, Peter Case still does it the hard way. No video cameras, no laptops, and no live streams. When Peter comes to town, it is a tangible, rewarding experience. All of the senses are engaged. Of course there is hearing and sound, but also taste, smell, and feel. It is a full sensory experience.

Although this film is framed as a documentary, it has all the elements that any good quality motion picture does: a strong character, a captivating story, great supporting actors, and great production value and direction. Peter Case cut his teeth in rock and roll in 1976 as a founder of the punk/alternative band The Nerves. Even from the very early stages of his career, it was clear that Peter had “it”. Whatever that “it” is. He has amazing charisma, great stage presence, good guitar chops, and has the audience in the palm of his hand.

Peter is best known for his song that also happens to be the title of the movie, “A Million Miles Away”. Anyone who was of age in the 1980s and had any exposure to rock and roll knows this song. It is easily one of the most iconic songs of the 80s. It’s transformative. Every time I hear it, it takes me back to the time when the movie “Valley Girl” was the bees knees. The title is adaptive. It’s meaning has changed over the years and is actually the perfect name for this film.

“A Million Miles Away” can apply to the fact that Peter Case is a travelling musician. He makes his living and forged his identity by travelling from place to place. The title is so appropriate for Peter’s occupation. It can also reference the fact that Peter is not the same person that he was in the 70s and 80s. There has been a lot of soul searching and growth that has occurred in Peter’s life. In fact, he is “A Million Miles Away” from the person he was back then.

The film follows Peter’s life in chronological order from childhood through current day. It doesn’t focus a tremendous amount on his early days, but those segments are very important for the understanding of Peter’s character. Peter had a tough upbringing in Hamburg, New York, a suburb of Buffalo. There are only a few minutes devoted to this, but it certainly explains a lot about Peter’s trials and tribulations as a young man and his experience with alcohol. Yes, there was definitely an undercurrent of self destruction in Peter’s career. Again, it is mentioned that Peter had a bit of an alcohol problem, where he screwed up an important gig. You have to pay attention because it is not a big part of the film, but an important part, nonetheless.

At the beginning of this documentary, Lightning Hopkins is mentioned as a huge influence on Peter. Interestingly enough, Lightning Hopkins was a huge influence on another legendary troubadour, Townes Van Zandt. Although Townes is never mentioned in the film, the similarities between Peter and Townes are undeniable. Both men put the music and their art ahead of the business end, and to their detriment. The stories take a turn in the fact that Townes died early life, while Peter has matured and evolved and has made it to an older age.

I love a movie with a happy ending and “Peter Case: A Million Miles Away” delivers. Although Peter went through his share of highs and lows, he has endured and is leading a very fulfilled life. There are a few moments of self reflection in the film where Peter does pull back the curtain and really gives an “open kimono” moment. One such moment is somewhere in the middle of the film where Peter admits that he was too young and maybe not mature enough to handle his early fame in the 80s. It takes a lot of courage to admit that, but it can also be an opportunity for catharsis and growth. In Peter Case’s case (pun intended) that is 100% true.

Buy “Peter Case: A Million Miles Away” here

Posted In:


Leave a Reply