Tapeworthy

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Shut Up & Sing - Movie Review


Shut Up & Sing is the documentary that follows the Dixie Chicks from the time they made a statement about being ashamed that Bush was from Texas on the eve of the War on Iraq to this past summer as they release their latest album and begin the tour. It gives a nice intimate portrait of the band, as each member struggles to deal with the inadvertent and overblown crisis brewing that began from Natalie Maines mouth, but eventually uniting Natalie, Martie Maguire and Emily Robinson even stronger as a group. Part musical documentary following the making of their latest album as a personal response to it all, part political documentary that basically pits free speech, the rights and obligations of celebrityism, country music fans' response and political views, and the War on Iraq against each other.

The documentary is well made and gets right to the heart of the juicy guts of it all, then flips back and forth between 2003 (when the backlash against the Dixie Chicks begin) and 2005-06 (as the Dixie Chicks makes a new album while still feeling the backlash against them). It includes scenes with the singers' families, and how the whole controversy affected their families lives as well (and I forgot that Natalie Maines is married to Heroes' Adrian Pasdar). The documentary gives the new songs an even deeper meaning as we see the Chicks struggle between writing what they really want to say (and thus continuing to piss off country music fans) and trying to find what their direction is to be now that their core audience is gone, which inadvertently gives them even more freedom to be unique. I enjoy their new album but after seeing the film, it really explains a lot of the songs and the emotions and thoughts behind them (I guess if you listen to the lyrics closely you would already know that but I'm more a melody kinda guy).

There's a great shout-out to Toronto (and Canada) as the Chicks people watch the sales figures on this latest tour (that passed by this summer and fall and still going on), when many of the southern states were still ignoring the Chicks, while Toronto became their hottest seller (who knew Toronto was a country town?). Politics drives much of the sales (or non-sales) on this latest tour, but it's the music that has allowed the Dixie Chicks to grow a fan base beyond their country core so that they can move beyond the people that gave up on them for having a political view (probably didn't help that it was more left leaning).

I'd be interested in seeing what the Rights' response to this film was. Or at least a proper response that wouldn't be so quick to dismiss this film, since it was really a great rah rah film for the liberal left (and managed to still get applause and cheers at my screening in liberal Toronto in it's fourth week out (and still almost sold out audience)). Personally, I found it much more emotional than I would expect from a somewhat political film, and although I really knew what to expect from this pro-liberal campaign of a movie, it was still the sort of movie you want to stand up and cheer for.

9/10 or A-

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