Dirs: Joe Berlinger (Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2) & Bruce Sinofksy
It is absolutely impossible for me to be objective about this rockumentary. Metallica stands in for so much bad taste and misplaced teen anger in my mind. It is complete prejudice and subjective attitude, I grant. No doubt this band is/was very good at capturing the type of adolescent experience that millions of disaffected white lower and middle class folks thought was very authentic at the time. 'Man, the world is so phony" Holden Caulfield angst translated into dark imagery and songs about being pissed off played very loud through unison guitar/bass/drum riffs just never did it for me. My depressing music is rural, acoustic, agrarian, full of resignation not rage. No doubt they say the same things about my "'profound" music.
Getting that off of my chest allows me to approach this film on its own terms. And it turns out that we get the world's biggest episode of reality television, a VH1 show that features unrivaled access, pop psychology, and a pretty interesting story of the dissintegration of multi-millionare prima donnas who find their power slipping away. Metallica is facing the prospect of a "comeback," the transition from most popular band to an MTV Icon where the industry fetes what once was. But the band is still working, even if it is fraying apart in terms of membership and psyche. The best parts of the film are the extended examinations of the creative process, the nuts and bolts of writing songs while still protecting your own turf and ego within a group of overpraised and undertalented pop musicians.
Unable to get along with each other, the record label hires a "performance coach," essentially a babysitter who makes the band members avoid killing each other. I traced the root of the problem to the fact that the band never had any real talent, and now trying to reproduce their marketability is proving increasingly difficult as taste passes them by. When the lead singer checks himself into rehab, the film becomes about the struggle to maintain themselves personally in the face of both fame and failure while cutting their new album.
Like the B celebrity shows that litter the airwaves today, Some Kind of Monster succeedes from its ability to access the irony of the viewer. I guess there are die-hard Metallica fans out there that will consider this a groundbreaking examination of some musical geniuses, but I found myself smiling throughout at the seriousness of the band, the emotional stakes involved in creating angry but still slight pop music, and the machinations that were required to get this album made.
Sure, I enjoyed myself. It was worth watching, and certainly moved me to consider things that I would not have otherwise. That those things were not the filmmakers intent is inconsequential; the author is dead and I will take read films however I wish.