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Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me

By MATTHEW SINGER

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far, far away, a little power-pop group from Memphis was once as famous as the Beatles. Children by the millions sang odes to the lead singer, and teenagers of the 1970s blasted its songs in their Vista Cruisers. That’s the fanfic version of the Big Star story, anyway. In reality, the band’s lack of success was so startling, given the utter perfection of its first two albums, that admirers from the Replacements to the creators of That ’70s Show have rewritten history to try and make things right. Failure defines Big Star, and that’s the lens through which Nothing Can Hurt Me frames them. Sure, Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori’s detailed primer follows the familiar “what once was lost, now is found” narrative, but unlike many recent rock docs, the focus here is on what was lost—namely, its twin geniuses, Alex Chilton and Chris Bell. After Big Star’s debut, the ironically titled #1 Record, flopped, Bell didn’t even stick around for album No. 2: He descended into drugs and religion, wrote at least one more achingly poignant tune and died in 1978 at age 27 in a car accident. Chilton lived long enough to witness Big Star’s rediscovery, but by then he’d grown embittered, and he died suddenly in 2010. Neither guy was wont to talk about himself on the record, so much of the film is told by those who traversed their orbit: first-generation rock writers, the late producer Jim Dickinson, drummer and lone surviving member Jody Stephens. DeNicola and Mori don’t really explain why “In the Street” wasn’t actually blaring from every car in 1972, or why “September Gurls” isn’t played every hour on classic-rock radio, but if their film encourages one person to pick up one of the band’s masterpieces and imagine what could’ve been, then it is triumph enough.

 

Special Note

 Hollywood Theatre.
 
  • Genres: Documentary
  • Running Time: 113 minutes
  • Release Date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13 [ Brief Strong Language, Drug References ]
  • Critic's Score: B+
  • Directed by: Drew DeNicola [Director], Olivia Mori [Producer], Danielle McCarthy [Producer], Drew DeNicola [Producer], John Fry [Executive Producer], Gill Holland [Executive Producer], Drew DeNicola [Cinematographer], Drew DeNicola [Film Editor], Christopher Branca [Film Editor]
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