I’m sad to say that until watching this documentary I’d never heard of the band Rush. I don’t have an extensive knowledge of rock and roll, but this documentary has made me curious enough to learn more, something incredibly important to me in the mark of a good documentary.
The filmmakers started right off with showing that Rush is still an active touring band, and that they are musician’s musicians. Anyone who has loved rock and roll enough to make it their profession has not only heard of Rush, but studied their music in order to gain the level of excellence they are at today. So if all this is true, then why hasn’t someone like me heard of Rush? Like I said, I’m not a hugely devoted fan of rock and roll, but I have a healthy collection of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and more, so why have I never heard of Rush until now? Cleverly, that documentary asks that very same question before the title credits; if Rush is so great, what kept them from becoming a household name?
The film was neatly divided into sections whose divisions became clear as the story was told, a film trick which I particularly appreciate because of my love of Ken Burns. In short, though Rush was on the cutting edge of progressive (and eventually the future style of) music, they were perennially unpopular with critics, almost Avant-garde in style, and typically popular with the fringes of society rather than the masses. But these three small reasons quickly fade as the documentary gives healthy examples of their music through all stages of their career. As Jack Black says “their bottle of awesome sauce is huge”.
I very much appreciated the point of view offered by old home videos made by the Rush members themselves (I assume). We were able to see Alex Lifeson’s parents convince him to finish high school, and Geddy Lee practicing at home while friends hung out with him. The film continued to use vintage footage for old concerts from all their stages of touring, and intercut these and vintage photographs with the band members talking about relevant stories of the time. I also liked that they intercut the same story being told by two or three different people. It was a nice stylistic touch to show that even though the band was made up of distinct individuals with their own perspective, they still were simpatico. The filmmakers also had a nice touch by interviewing the same band members in different settings, a decision that especially paid off with the drummer Neil Peart, who was interviewed at his drum set, with his drum teacher, and outside on the road.
After watching this film a few times, I’m very impressed by the amount of heart that went into this documentary. Obviously, the band members love what they do, but we also got to see them through the fans’ eyes; which helped us see them for the rock gods they are. I think I’ll get some Rush albums right now.