Film Review: The Beastie Boys Story

Image: nytimes.com

Review By Frances Winston

Directed by: Spike Jonze – Starring: Mike Diamond, Adam Horovitz

Available to stream on Apple+

This is yet another victim of the current Coronavirus crisis. Originally scheduled to debut at the South by Southwest festival, which was of course cancelled, it was then pencilled in for a limited release from April 3rd. Again that proved impossible due to restrictions. So, like so many other movies this season, it has launched digitally instead.

Thankfully, unlike some dramatic offerings, which were made specifically to been seen on a big screen so that audiences could savour all the effects, this documentary lends itself rather well to cosy at home viewing. This is helped in no small part by its intimate format.

It is basically a recording of a live theatre show where Diamond and Horvitz take the audience through their Beastie Boys journey, aided by images, audio, and video. Sadly, the third member of the iconic group, Adam Yauch, died of cancer in 2012, but his spirit looms very large here, given that he was an integral part of the group, and, at times, you actually forget that he’s no longer with us, given how vibrantly he is portrayed.

As they come to the end of the show, there is a beautiful tribute to him, and the pair get extremely emotional talking about him, his work, and his evolution as a person.

From their humble beginnings as three kids just messing around with music, to getting inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, the group had quite the journey. Filled with astonishing highs and some extreme lows, this is a classic show-business story. It’s also a huge amount to try and cram into a two hour show, and, at times, you get the impression that they’ve barely scraped the surface.

For example, at a time when they dropped their white-boy rhymes in a predominately black genre, they thought they got a record deal because people liked their music. However, it turned out the label needed white artists to get on MTV. The politics of this is something that is barely touched on, as Diamond and Horovitz focus on the fun they had chasing their dreams. Perhaps the best insights come during the outtakes from previous shows in the closing credits, which feel somewhat more insightful than much of what we saw on screen.

That said, this is obviously made for the fans, and they will love this nostalgia trip. They won’t learn anything new from it, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that, even in diluted form, this is a fascinating story.

For non fans this is still an interesting insight into the group, and a good representation of the creative energy that ran wild in the 80s, as MTV took a foothold and everyone thought they could be a pop star.

This trip down memory lane could have been bigger and more bonkers, but as a slice of pop culture history, it is worth a look.

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