"THIS IS SPINAL TAP. . . Except They’re Not Joking"
What You Need To Know:
The band therapy sessions are funny, watching heavily tattooed men speak in self-help babble. Arising from that context, however, it’s unsurprising that they have a thoroughly humanist outlook. Considering that they’re Metallica, it’s not surprising that there’s a stream of strong foul language. Even so, they have some charm, as lead singer James Hetfield is a dedicated family man who deeply regrets his former alcohol, drug, and sex habits. Overall, this glorified episode of VH1’s BEHIND THE MUSIC works well and shares with the audience a part of the entertainment industry they might not have understood otherwise. . . if only 30 or 40 minutes had been edited out.
(HHH, BB, Pa, LLL, S, NN, AA, M) Very strong humanist worldview in which musician claims that art and music saved his life with some strong mortal elements, including a strong adherence to family and a strong rebuke of past sexual immorality and use of illegal drugs; some pagan elements; 77 obscenities and three profanities; no violence; one sexual innuendo and sexual immorality regretted; one brief instance of upper female nudity; one person drinks frequently and gets drunk once, others make references to their pasts with alcoholism, and man regrets his past with alcohol and drugs; and, some narcissistic behavior and humanist psychology used for personal and group therapy.
METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER is an entertaining if longwinded look at the heavy metal band. The audience sees them in the studio for almost two years trying to complete an album, bickering the whole time and almost breaking up. Along with the three principal band members are a longtime producer and friend to the band and also a “live-in” therapist who sits in on all the rehearsals, planning sessions, and band meetings. This arrangement is bizarre, and the creative process that it begets is just as bewildering, so the movie – as a document of that – succeeds, especially for those wanting an insight into the music industry.
The filmmakers spend some time exposing the band’s arrogance, including lead singer James Hetfield’s soliloquy on how it’s “strange to be famous” or letting drummer Lars Ulrich ramble half-coherently about the link between visual art and his band’s music. Sadly, the directors seem too enthralled with the band to edit much out, as the career retrospectives last too long, and the movie’s scope is far too wide. Ulrich makes the incisive point that Hetfield is controlling even in his absence (such as the year-long stint in rehab), but the movie quickly moves on to the next scene. In this manner, the movie fails to cut clear portraits of any of the band members.
Funniest to watch were the therapy sessions, although it seems that any time Metallica convened during these two years was a therapy session. A novelty exists in watching heavily tattooed men with delicately sculpted facial hair, all of them sporting an ersatz biker look, converse entirely in self-help babble. “I don’t feel like you’re respecting my feelings,” one says. “I’m not sure if we’re communicating as effectively as we could be,” another notes. A shocking percentage of their sentences began with “I.”
Interesting is Hetfield’s devotion to his wife and children. He leaves the studio promptly at 4 p.m. each day to spend time with them. He talks about his years as a stereotypically wild rock ‘n roller: “Waking up next to someone I don’t know. . . hung-over every morning. . . it always ends the same.” He said that the only way to be surprised by life and really enjoy it is to have your head clear and start a family. “You never know what’s going to happen then,” he adds.
That’s an example of the band’s slight charm. Even though they say some really dumb, oblivious things, even though they are a paragon of the “sellout” band that cranks out music like a factory to make more money, it’s still hard to completely dislike them once you get to know them. SOME KIND OF MONSTER makes you sympathize with Metallica a little bit, which is probably something you never imagined you’d do.
Arising from that self-help context, it’s predictable that they would be infected with a humanist outlook that values immediate happiness over significant spiritual enlightenment. Most objectionable in the movie is its stream of “f” words. Overall, this glorified episode of VH1’s BEHIND THE MUSIC works pretty well and shares with the audience a part of the entertainment industry they might not have understood otherwise. If only 30 or 40 minutes had been cut out. . . .