Tuesday, July 27, 2010 12 comments
I find myself in somewhat of an odd position. Get your mind out of the gutter -- ethically odd, you beasts. I’m going to now write a review of a movie that I have been associated with since rather early in its cine-life, although certainly in a modest way. I am talking about the midlife-Don Quixote-meets-The Kinks film, “Do It Again,” now making its way internationally through the film fest circuit. Over the last couple of years, its producer/writer/star, Boston Globe staffer Geoff Edgers has gone from being the guy who emailed me about what Kinks photos I might have for the project, to being my good friend. He had never made a movie before, I definitely was not Ms. Big Shot Film Girl, but we both loved the Kinks and I was glad to help. The only other thing I could offer Geoff were my honest opinions about what I thought would work and what would not work, both in practical reality and how the movie could play out as a good story that everyone could relate to and enjoy, British rock fan or not. My honest opinion is always what I offer you, too, so I am going to give this review a shot here, mixed with some behind-the-scenes bits and Hollywood glam.
I think there are two types of “doers” in the world, the people who have a good idea and then actually follow through with it to completion: the Solid Planner, or the Wing It Guy. Geoff Edgers is the dictionary definition of Wing It Guy. Anyone who has had ANYTHING to do with Ray or Dave Davies and the Kinks can tell you that these are not the easiest folks to deal with, and you are looking at a pile of your own pulled-out hair on your desk for an outcome even when things go well. I told Geoff this, as did all the other Anyones he spoke with. Yet, the Wing It Guy in him, the man determined to do something truly grand as he approached age 40, decided that he would put on film his quest to reunite the Kinks, inactive as a working band since the mid-‘90s. Solid Planner would have taken all the Anyones anecdotes, looked at the numbers and the very formidable and predictable problems in making any independent film, and would never have even made an attempt. Wing It Guy gets called a nut and does it anyway, and hopes for the best.
Geoff was downright blessed to pull in director Robert Patton-Spruill and editor Brad Allen Wilde to Team Wing It. The crisp, clean, and vibrant look of the film and the superb pacing and continuity makes the film a real pleasure to view. It is absolutely a step above many of the indie docs I’ve seen over the years in production values. The big problem I had when I first saw a rough cut of the film many months ago was not at all with how it looked. It was in my dealbreaker movie requirement: the story. Depending on how you make your way to “Do It Again,” you may or may not know that it is NOT a typical bio-documentary about the Kinks. That’s been done several times already for TV, with varying results. “Do It Again” really is more of a fan’s winding love letter to a wonderful band, with a very healthy dose of concurrence from other fans like Sting, Zooey Deschanel , Robyn Hitchcock, Paul Weller, and others. Geoff also gets his Fan Boy butt kicked a time or two in the film, deservedly. What is completely crucial to “Do It Again” working is that, enthusiastically or begrudgingly, you have to like Geoff Edgers in this film and empathize with him on some level. He, via the Kinks, is the beating crazy heart of the story, and to carry a film for an hour-and-a-half is no small thing. It is up to him to pull you in and keep you there to see where the quest goes.
In the rough cut, I didn’t think that happened, and I was more than a little disappointed. The Wing It style was too apparent; the focus disjointed. To me, my friend came off poorly and the tone at times too serious and naval-gazing or downright awkward. The story was not flowing well, and I didn’t come away learning much. Perhaps my initial assessment was harsh because of closeness or high expectations, perhaps not. I wrote Geoff with some of the issues I had, not an easy or fun thing to do, then stepped back for awhile. My nature was to dive into the project frame-by-frame and “fix’ it according to my opinions, but that wasn’t appropriate, of course. It was not my film or my story or my quest. With film festival application time looming, “Do It Again” received another edit and went out into the world. The reviews started coming in, overwhelmingly positive from both audiences and the media. Wing It was getting some tailwind!
I decided that I would fly down from Seattle to the film’s Los Angeles premiere on July 22nd at the Silent Movie Theater, part of the Cinefamily “Don’t Knock the Rock” festival curated by filmmaker Allison Anders and her daughter Tiffany. I wanted to see the film on the big screen, join in the fun of DJ Howie Pyro playing classic Brit/garage tracks pre-show, the delicious and fun Michael Des Barres as film MC, and an hour of kool Kinks video clips from Dr. Charles Beardsley after the film. Most importantly, I would be able to see my pal Geoff from Boston again and hang out and laugh and talk about the strange surreality of all this. No matter if I still felt uncomfortable with some aspects of the film, I knew it would still be a great experience. I settled into a smooshy front-row couch, with the L.A. City Council and SHEL TALMY, LEGENDARY KINKS PRODUCER sitting somewhere behind me. Good lord.
Right away, I noticed the edits to this version of the film and even just a few minutes in, a broad smile came over my face. By god…it was WORKING! All the spots where I felt lost were now pinned down and explained, extraneous footage lost, and the tone lightened and tightened. The story came together, an unlikely mix of fan and band, celebrity and family, and the enduring power and inspiration of music. Greatness, both achieved and desired, and the real-life costs of that to both fan and band is perhaps the best summation of “Do It Again.” Dr. Warren Zanes, former member of the Del Fuegos and brother to musician Dan Zanes, anchors the beginning and end of the film as the Voice Of Reason in Geoff’s ear, and in-between there are a great deal of laughs as we see Geoff travel thousands of miles and compile many phone calls and emails trying to rally the troops in support of resurrecting the Kinks. It’s genuinely funny and honest – the Geoff Edgers onscreen is the same guy he is in real life, whether professing his love of music (although not of “the f*cking Eagles") or railing against a devastating pay cut at work. The L.A. audience, whom I sort of expected to be too cool for the room, was warm and enthusiastic, laughing and clapping and happy to be there. I would glance over at Des Barres every so often and smile seeing him practically high-five the screen at times, enjoying the film with everyone else.
The culmination of the film is in the interview filmed with Dave Davies. For me, it is a bit emotionally difficult to watch; a rather remarkable piece of footage unlike any other that I know of from the Kinks. There are questions answered there, perhaps THE question of the film. They do not come so much from the words Dave says, but his face as he says them. When you see “Do It Again,” I think you will understand what I mean. And yes, that means I think you SHOULD see it. Team Wing It succeeded, and there was no better feeling for me than to give my friend a hug at the end of the movie and tell him just that, especially when I was prepared to say, “Well, I’ll buy you a consolation beer down at Canter’s anyway, Geoff.” I recommend this film, and you can dance to it. The Kinks were the best, you know.
(For more about the L.A. night and some fun stories, see Geoff’s blog post on the “Do It Again” movie blog, which apparently he wrote at the same exact time I wrote this.)
Thank you Anderseseseseseses, everyone at Cinefamily and the Silent Movie Theater, Todd and Caz Westover + photos, and of course Geoff Edgers for one of the most enjoyable evenings I’ve ever had.