Posted by: kubiakl | April 9, 2010

Reluctant Two-Hundredths Of A Dollar

About nine years ago I went out and rented the movie “Hendrix”.  It was supposed to be a biopic of Jimi’s life.  Sounds great for a music fan, right?

It wasn’t.  Hendrix was portrayed as an idiot, the music sequences were horribly unrealistic, and it really didn’t tell much of a story.

Why am I reminded of this today?  Because I couldn’t click anywhere without seeing a link to articles that said Robert Pattison was going to play Kurt Cobain in an upcoming biopic.

Before I’m attacked by a mob of preteen girls, let me say this:  I have no problem with Robert Pattison.  (Who I’m sure read this and said “Whew.  That’s alright then.”)  I never saw “Twilight” (and probably never will), but I did see him in another movie and thought he was pretty good.

And while I’ve made it clear that Cobain’s life and music don’t mean anything to me, I don’t want to see his legacy tarnished.

That’s what most rock biopics do.  They take a few details and turn the subject into a caricature.  Instead of really seeing the person, we see the public persona (minus any personality) shoved into a story that hits a few points in their life.  With rock music, what usually gets focused on are the wild stories that everyone already knows.  So instead of seeing a person onscreen, we see the public face we’re already familiar with going through the motions we already know about.

Why bother?

Ah, silly me.  Because people will pay to see it.

One article I read talked about one of the biggest problems that plagues music biopics – the actors themselves.  Unless they are really intense method actors (see Val Kilmer in “The Doors”), it’s obvious that it’s a portrayal.  They don’t become the artist.  They’re just pretending for our amusement.  And while that’s great for our regular movies, it hurts a biopic.

Maybe part of that is because anyone who is going to care to watch a movie about a musician is usually already familiar with that musician.  I didn’t watch “Hendrix” because I heard good reviews, or because I was familiar with the lead actor, or because I wanted to be entertained by a story.  I watched it because I wanted to know Hendrix better.  It didn’t work.  Unless the actors really become the subjects it will strike a false note.

So here’s hoping Pattison goes full method on this one.  And here’s hoping it turns out well for all the Nirvana fans out there.


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