November 20, 2009

Review Pt. 1: When We Were Beautiful documentary

So I just finished (finally) watching the documentary tonight - literally about 5 minutes ago. And it was, frankly, so many things that I can hardly put my thoughts into words right now.

But I figured that since I haven't put anything constructive up on my blog in awhile, and because I'm a writer and find the outlet for my feelings in words, I simply had to write up a review of the last two hours I just spent with Bon Jovi.

So first off, how many of you have seen it? (Go on, raise your hands.) I am truly interested in what you all have to say about it, so please let me know when you finish reading this review (and let me know what you think of that, too.)

If you haven't seen it - do it. Now.

I had heard from others that the documentary was good - that it showed the raw, uncut, behind-the-scenes meat of the band and the enterprise...the good, the bad, the ugly. Jon himself said it wasn't sugarcoated, and that it wasn't all pretty. And it certainly wasn't.

For one thing, I never knew - or perhaps never realized - that Tico used to have a serious drinking problem. And I was even further surprised to hear Jon describe him as a "mean, mean man" when he was drunk. Teek described it himself as going months without a drink, and then suddenly downing two bottles...but mean? Tico Torres - mean?! I couldn't pair it up. He's by far the most easy-going and the sweetest man to meet out of all of them (and Jon's the happy drunk?!) Go figure.

Dave - another head tilt on my part when he revealed that he is "slightly bothered" by Jon being the leader. He did explain that he's not unhappy enough to leave, and described it as something that he and the other guys have gotten used to and accepted as their role in the band (to be Jon's backup, essentially), but I kept waiting for him to say something more about it being okay, or good...and he never did. He was particularly careful in his wording, though, I think, so I respect him for being as honest as possible without opening a whole can of worms.

I will not lie - Richie made me cry. I had viewed the first half of the documentary from almost a completely intellectual standpoint: learning about, digesting and analyzing the underbelly of this rockband corporation...but the minute Richie said the words "when I was broken," I literally got tears in my eyes. Then the following segment about his rough times (the divorce, his dad's death, drinking, etc.), and how he dealt with them switched me over completely to an emotional entanglement that had me swiping my eyes and an ache in my heart. The self confessions...the obvious hurt...the opening up and pouring forth a tender part of yourself is difficult enough to do with those who are close to you. But to do it so openly, with the world of fans that represent a completely public face...that takes guts. And trust, and faith...and when he thanked the fans for being there for him in the concert they showed in the documentary, I remembered when he did the same at my show in Los Angeles last year. And I cried then too. I will always have that special place in my heart for Richie, and I know I will always hurt for his hurt - just like any of the other members - in a way that just tugs my heartstrings.

Now, on to Jon...clearly the dominating voice and star of the documentary. I have never before seen his inner demons or the intensity of his life before as much as I did tonight. The pressures on that man are absolutely unreal - in being the CEO of that "corporation", the frontman of the band, the manager and virtual president of everything Bon Jovi, the husband, father, friend, and visionary that he's a wonder he doesn't crack. I do worry about him running himself down, but as Richie put it: he knows what he's doing, and he does it well. But when he gets down about some of those responsibilities and the hysteria - particularly in that car scene in London, when he goes off on a quiet tirade about the performances and ticket crisis - you can just feel the exhaustion and the pain radiating off of him. You can see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice, and your heart just aches for him. At least, mine does. That man is deeply complex in a way I have never before understood, and I have a new, profound level of respect for him as a person and as a musician.

I loved that they showed the ugly. It's simply a bald-faced lie to say that life is glamorous, and though Jon has said that before, the only way for any outsider to truly see what he means (even a glimpse) is to watch him and the band through the eyes of an insider.

Of course, not all of it was so serious. Some of the stories they told were hilarious - Richie walking into Tico with the mom of the girl he just slept with had me in stitches! The jokes and the teasing, the good-natured fun they all have together when in good spirits - that's what makes it all worth it.

You learn a bit more about some of the songs - that 'Whole Lot of Leaving' (my favorite LH track) was virtually written for Richie and the losses he was suffering at the time, and it gives a whole new emotional connotation to the lyrics and the music. It also keeps it fresh, when the listener has a new perspective on it. Likewise, even Kid Rock describing the secret to success as having "a song that's bigger than the trend, not a trend bigger than the song," is dead on, but a refreshing new way to look at Bon Jovi's success.

Even just some of the things they revealed about one another, the simple statements to which they probably didn't attribute much weight when they said, made me stop and think. For example, Jon saying that Tico "has the most together life of all of us." That's pretty big.

Other than the insight into each band member - and by the way, I loved that they interviewed each of them enough to get a good solid perspective from each individually - I found myself on an adventure with the whole band. I laughed, I cried, I 'aww'ed, I smiled, my heart swelled and I fell in love all over again. The raw honesty and the unabashed confessions to the parts of them that are less than pretty - all the parts of the iceberg below the water surface - are completely an integral part of who they are and the music they make. Above all, the undying friendship, love, and deep respect they have for one another is what has kept them together...and that is blatantly obvious - and reassuringly comforting - in this documentary.

I was truly intrigued to learn everything that I did, while being reminded of how much this band is a part of my life, the hold they have in my heart, and the immense respect I have for each and every member.

So, I have no hesitation in saying that When We Were Beautiful is truly a masterpiece in offering a full, no-holds account of these four men from Jersey who have made their mark on this world, and an absolute must-see for any person who calls his or herself a fan.


TaraLeigh said...

I have to agree with you Becky. It's one of those amazing moments, imho, when you get to see a little bit of the real Jovi.

Now, I don't think we even truly scratched the surface, but it's definitely one of those few raw moments when we actually got to see a little bit of the man and the band.

And yes, I have to agree--I think I love Jon even MORE after seeing just what kind of pressure he puts on himself---because it's him that puts most of the pressure on himself.

I loved the Documentary.

My only problem with leaves me wanting far more.

Becky said...

Thanks Tara!

I definitely agree that this was hardly even scratching the surface when it comes the everything the band embodies, but for the fans - it's quite a trip. It definitely deepens feelings and views, and provides some education for those who prefer to live in the happy world where Jon's a virtual superman, and all the guys do is sleep, play music, and laugh.

I want more too - but not quite yet. I like being able to digest what I've learned about them and really take it to heart before learning more. Too much at once is overwhelming for me!

Anyway, thanks for the response. :)

Anonymous said...

David eluded to the fact that he wasn't always happy being back up to Jon when he spoke at the EMP here in Seattle in January. No quite in the same words and as seriously as he did on the documentary.. but I got the distinct impression he would have liked to have flexed his songwriting muscles for the band more. He commented on having 200 songs sitting on his shelf with "no buyer" and that Musical Theatre gave him that opportunity.

After watching Inside the Actor's Studio I understood why too. David talked about his songwriting process always starts with a riff. The words and the title always seem to come later... totally opposite of what Jon said that he and Richie start with a title.

He also commented that the band is actually a democratic republic. he grinned his little grin when he said it... but you could see in his eyes he was serious and a little bothered by it.

Leticia said...

Hi there! Loved your review. Just a quick question, how do you make this amazing pics from the video? Thanks, Leticia

Becky said...

Karen - yeah, I can understand Dave being a bit unhappy with having to be in the background so much, especially when he has such real talent and can bring so much to the floor. But that's why I'm glad he has expanded into the musical business finally, so he can really stretch his wings and demonstrate his creativity. And Jon was nothing but supportive of him when he mentioned it in the documentary, so I think the balance is fine. Dave even said himself that the band operates differently, and I think he knows it would be stupid of him to walk away and leave a huge hole in the framework - maybe he's not the ceiling, but he's definitely a wall beam, and they'd totally fall apart without him!

Leticia - thanks so much for stopping by and reading! I actually got these pictures from The Goddess Hathor, who extracted stills from the documentary. There are many tools you can use to do this - and many of them are free and online! Let me know if you want any more help or suggestions. :)

Arquitectura Compatible said...

I have always been a little aprehensive about getting to know "the real" people behind my rockers and always kept away from watching interviews that didn't deal with the songs or the records or the tours, so watching this documentary was kinda hard to swallow at first, seeing all the strings behind the courtain out me off a little bit...AT FIRST. Then I began digging deeper and deeper because I didn't want to be left with just that first impression and started to watch more introspective interviews and discovered a whole new aspect of the boys that kinda grew on me, and made me admire more, because it's easy to be "an artist" in an "all-bohemian" environment, but it's even harder to be an artist in the world of business and how they manage to still create wonderfull music despite that trully amazes me, I fell in love all over again.