MRR Review: "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me"

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Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me is a feature-length documentary film about the dismal commercial failure, subsequent massive critical acclaim, and enduring legacy of pop music's greatest cult phenomenon, Big Star.
3.5

MRR Review: "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me"

-- Rating: PG-13 (Drug references, language)
Length: 113 min
Release date: March 15, 2012
Directed by: Drew DeNicola, Olivia Mori
Genre: Documentary

"Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" is a 2012 documentary film by directors Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori, which tells the story of a renowned Memphis band called Big Star. They may not have made it to the top of the charts, but the band certainly developed a cult following among country and rock fans. Although Big Star only produced three albums, those albums changed the course of music by influencing such music legends as R.E.M., Elliot Smith, and the Flaming Lips.

The life of a rock legend is often filled with controversy and drama, and that goes double for struggling musicians who never quite made it to the top. The documentary provides an interesting look into the mystery of success in the music industry. Big Star certainly wasn't lacking in talent and inspiration, as evidenced by their all-star list of fans. The film takes a deeper look inside the lives of Big Star's members and examines what they did wrong and, more importantly, all the things they did right.

"Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" follows the journey of the band from their formation to the pinnacle of their success. The film includes testimonials and commentary from those who had significant roles in producing the band's music as well as famous artists who were influenced by Big Star's music. R.E.M., the Replacements, Pete Yorn, and the Flaming Lips are just a few famous guest appearances used to connect photos and videos of the band with a modern day audience. The directors managed to uncover large amounts of unseen footage, photos, and live performance clips, making "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" a definitive source for fans new and old.

Alex Chilton, the band's famous frontman, was no stranger to success. The documentary follows Chilton's musical career long after Big Star collapsed as a band, covering his reasonably popular 1978 single, "Can't Seem to Make You Mine." The song came out in the same year as the band's former guitarist, Chris Bell, produced his influential single, "I Am the Cosmos." The two singles are contrasted visually and musically, showing how unique each artist was and how they influenced the atmosphere of the band.

Directors DeNicola and Mori manage to do with this film what many documentary makers strive for but fail to accomplish. Even while discussing why Big Star failed to become a mainstream hit, the film focuses on the qualities of the band's music that inspired so many legendary musicians that came after them. "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" introduces Big Star's music to a whole new generation of music lovers while connecting the band's work with modern music tastes. Chris Bell, Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens, and Andy Hummel will resonate with fans of modern rock just as well as classic fans, thanks to the masterful job this documentary does of making their music come to life like never before. Big Star's music is remastered and their performances are shown in high quality that makes the audience feel as if they have center stage seating at a vintage concert.

"Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" is the ultimate homage to the classic band. While Big Star had a short music career, their music affected the world of rock in such a deep way that their influence can be found in numerous modern bands and genres. The documentary highlights the ups and downs of their careers while focusing on the band members and their personal lives and struggles. "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" is a realistic, often gritty portrayal of what it meant to be in a rock band in the 1970s. While there are plenty of documentaries about bands who made it, this one is unique in that it focuses on a band that had all the right qualities that never quite got them where they wanted to be.

Strangely enough, "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" actually gives Big Star the recognition they worked so long and hard to achieve. While the band may not have multiple platinum records, it's obvious from the documentary that they have influenced the work of other musicians just as much as bands that reach the top of the charts on a regular basis. For this reason, DeNicola and Mori have earned their own place in the rock and roll documentary hall of fame. Whether you are a long-time fan of Big Star or simply a music fan looking to learn a little more about one of the bands who inspired the legends you love today, "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" is an entertaining and informative film to see.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5