Documentaries tend to throw me for a loop as a writer of film and lover of cinema. Some documentaries are technically well done and hold my interest, but my own nasty bias sometimes dilutes my opinion on the film as a whole. It Might Get Loud is one of those documentaries. Though the idea of bringing three rock legends together to discuss music and trace their own musical evolutions is a great one, a certain limited appeal can't help but present itself if the viewer is not a fan of the musicians in question, as I am not.
The spotlight guitarists in the movie are The Edge from U2, Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin and Jack White from The White Stripes (or The Raconteurs--whatever floats your boat). Despite my appreciation for the talents of these men, I am not a fan of their music. I'd even go so far as to say that I hate one of their bands (one that you too might dislike). However, this documentary somehow breaks down those barriers. You do not have to be a fan of the music to be a fan of the movie, although it helps.
The main premise of the flick is to trace the progress of guitar music from the "painful tension" of the blues to the present day, or at least that's what the opening text wants you to think. If anything, it doesn't look at the evolution of the guitar through history, but rather the evolution of the guitar through the guitarists' histories, which are two completely separate things. It explains where they came from and why they decided to start making music. The Edge, for example, was sick of the violence plaguing the world and wanted to use music as his voice to speak out. Jack White, on the other hand, faced more hometown hardships. He lived in a Mexican neighborhood with zero record stores, where it was uncool to play an instrument. Each of the men have stories to tell about their music and they are all interesting. Whether you love their bands or hate them, you'll acknowledge their hard work and dedication as you hear how they spit in the face of their pessimistic surroundings.
What It Might Get Loud does best is take these rock gods and deconstruct them to normal people. You get the sense that, for them, it wasn't about the money or the fame or the women. The Edge explains when discussing the satirical nature of Rob Reiner's classic, This Is Spinal Tap, that he broke down in tears instead of laughing because "it was so close to the truth." He became frustrated with music and the self indulgence of it all. This is only one example of how the film delves into their souls and it works magnificently, adding another layer to what could have been a very thin picture.
The most gratifying part of the movie, however, is watching the childlike qualities of White and, at times, The Edge. As Page stands up to play one of his songs, they watch with a puerile fascination, gazing intently and smiling as if God himself had appeared right in front of them. It's gratifying for them, but it's gratifying for us as well because this is usually followed by a jam session where the three play off of each other, which truly is a sight to behold.
It Might Get Loud is an accomplished documentary, intelligently directed without lavish camera tricks by Davis Guggenheim, of An Inconvenient Truth fame, but it doesn't have that extra push, especially if you aren't a fan of the bands these guys play in. Still, it's hard to not be impressed by the many directions they are taking music. Their love for it is so apparent that you'd have to have a pretty hardened soul to not want to spend this short amount of time with them.
It Might Get Loud receives 3.5/5