Every music documentary seems to follow the same formula. Band comes together. Through hard work and struggle said band reach the verge of making stardom. After a confluence of timing and events, the band becomes an unquestioned success that leaves its mark on music history. Unfortunately, the group is unable handle its new success and ends up falling apart before its time.
Movies following a pattern is not necessarily a bad thing, however. Rom-coms have followed pretty much the same formula for decades. Many horror films are loved for they way they stick to the tropes of the genre. The Go-Go’s proves that if the subject is good enough it is not necessary to switch up the tried and true music documentary formula.
More so than other films, documentaries about popular bands rely greatly on nostalgia. Fans of the artist will enjoy what they see, non fans will wonder what all the fuss is about. Fond memories will definitely attract fans of the band, but The Go-Go’s is good enough to bring in crowds that only know the band through their way too catchy hits.
Director Alison Ellwood does a wonderful job of focusing on what makes The Go-Go’s so important. The band were not the first all female group; they were not even the first successful one. What they did do was much more impressive. They were the first all female band that came together on their own, wrote their own material, and played their own instruments. There are early clips showing a band that can barely play but has an undeniable presence. As The Go-Go’s continues, the audience watches the band get better and captures a sense of why they are so important.
The Go-Go’s also makes sure to highlight the importance of what the band did without downplaying those that came before them. The punk scene was very critical to the five, but it was also important for them to build off what others had done before them. (Of particular interest is how they were more influenced by the girl bands of the 1950s than the punks of later years.) The Go-Go’s were trailblazers, but they are also aware of who paved the road for them.
Ellwood’s documentary also shows the bond between the group. Through candid interviews, The Go-Go’s paints a picture of what the group is like. It is also clear how strong the bond between the five women are. The stories told by the band also show how much they mean to each other. They have the added value of being very funny and preventing the documentary from being just another of the rise and fall variety.
Best of all, The Go-Go’s is just plain fun. There is the 1980’s aesthetic that is familiar to even those who were not there to live it. Neon colors and outrageous stories will keep the audience laughing. The band’s greatest hits remain popular for good reason. They invoke a sense of levity and joy that will brighten the darkest moods. Watching the documentary is more than just a story about empowerment and success; it is a genuine good time.
Music documentaries are one of the most cliched forms of film. The juicy gossip and wild stories of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll are not without their enjoyment, but there is also a sameness to them all. Director Alison Ellwood’s The Go-Go’s manages to take the formula and change it up just enough to make a great documentary about an important band. Less about the trappings of success and more about the influence of the band, The Go-Go’s is the story of a band that did everything on their own. And nothing is more punk than that.
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