Movie Review: Beastie Boys Story
I wonder how many people will be surprised to learn that I’m a huge Beastie Boys fan. Most that know me will no doubt fear whenever I’m in charge of the AUX cable, melodies from Talking Heads, Pulp or R.E.M. are the most likely result of such a horror. The Beastie Boys are the furthest music style from my comfort zone, East Coast American Hip-hop from three white guys that don’t exactly exude lyrics I’m anywhere close to familiar with. The trio grew up in completely different circumstances to me, but they’re somehow so intensely engaging. Beastie Boys Story documents the decades of work the trio offered up to us, their sudden rise to fame and the intricate styling of their music.
Learning of the bands that inspired their music, the highs and lows of a career spanning three decades of music and how the band dealt with the passing of Adam Yauch is truly interesting. Stories of tape loops, writing lyrics on napkins and playing bass with Aerosmith also feature. Their early days are documented in surprising detail, a supremely interesting showcase in how mocking the party boy scene inevitably turned them into those they looked to mock. Detailing the U.K. bust-up with the press, the tiresome tours and the inevitable need for change comes at a time in their lives when reflection is not just acceptable, but expected. Fondly reminiscing about the glory days can always turn into a smug celebration of accomplishments, but Horovitz and Diamond don’t shy away from the many shortcomings the three found themselves dealing with.
Inputs and cheering from the crowd do detract somewhat, mainly because they cheer anytime a name is mentioned. Pops and cheers from the crowd for detailing where a drumkit would be in a room or about how the band would go and talk to someone. It teeters on stand-up presentation at times, Jonze does not attempt to disguise this free-flowing form. It’s a certainly interesting experiment, but I can’t help but feel it would’ve been much more engaging without a crowd butting in to holler and cheer every few minutes.
Still, I can’t fault a documentary that tries to break away from the more conventional style of presenting facts. Billing a live show presents a nice connection between audience and performers though, and although they’re grating, the audience is lively and enjoying themselves. They go from annoying to necessary rather quickly, their interactions becoming sparser as the two remaining Beastie Boys divulge stories from their personal lives.
I feel like the remaining two Beastie Boys are clinging onto their youth as best they can. As they recount their glory days and talk with real passion about their influences, the friends they made along the way, and the impact they feel their music has had, the documentary comes together rather well. Beastie Boys Story is going to be a real treat for anyone that has even so much as a glimmer of interest in their work. The best documentaries should teach you something new, and that’s exactly what Beastie Boys Story manages to do, with a feverish detail on not just the Beastie Boys, but the music scene that surrounded and engulfed them. Emotionally charged, highly interesting and balanced between immortalising the famous trio and putting to bed a few home truths.