TL;DR – An absurd story of an equally odd yet compelling bad that survived many different seismic changes.
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film
The Sparks Brothers Review –
To be honest, when I heard the pitch of a documentary about a band that has been both hugely influential but also under the radar? Well, I didn’t know quite what to think about it? Then you find out that Edgar Wright of Hot Fuzz and Baby Driver fame was directing it, and well, then you go from unsure to very interested in a moment, and I am glad that I did.
So to set the scene, we open all the way at the start, where brothers Ron Mael and Russell Mael growing up in California. Then coming together after college to form the band Sparks after a couple of failed starts. From here, they would put out some well-received but not as popular albums until someone in their record had the idea “let’s try them in England”, and the story snowballs from there. Now I should say that my screening was interrupted by a fire alarm, which may have influenced my thoughts on the film, but given the documentary style, there was a moment at the start when I thought the warnings were some sort of immersive element, so I think it was fine.
I came into this film not knowing anything about the band or the brothers behind it. This meant for about a third of the film. I was almost convinced that Edgar Wright was playing a prank on us, given how outlandish the story of Ron Mael and Russell Mael is. However, when they were talking, there was this moment, and then a song played and somewhere deep in my brain, I had remembered hearing it before. That recognition dramatically shifted my perspective on the film as each unbelievable twist (and new record label) piled up.
The film is helped by exploring every facit of the band and the chaos around them. One of my favourite moments was a fan looking back at a picture of her rushing onto the stage and being escorted off with equal parts joy at the past, but also mortification of her actions. We get to hear from so many different people who talk with such passion about the band that you hang on every musical queue to understand what draws them in.
When you hear that Edgar Wright is directing a documentary, one of the things that you wonder is how he will combine the documentary filmmaking perspective with his own style of production. Well, it is much more like a traditional documentary than you would expect, but his stamp is over everything. The moment you see the title card ‘Beck – See Above’, you know there will be little Easter Eggs at every moment. We get clever editing tying different statements together into something bigger. At the same time, we get many other animation styles to illustrate various stages of their lives, including a nice Simon Pegg & Nick Frost cameo. This creates a film that you can always follow, but you never know which twist is coming next.
In the end, do we recommend The Sparks Brothers? Yes, yes, we would. If you are a fan of Art pop, glam rock, synth-pop, and the many other styles of music Sparks have played, you will find this enlightening. I mean, if you have never heard of Sparks before, you will still find this fascinating. If you liked The Sparks Brothers, I would also recommend Gurrumul.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Sparks Brothers
Directed by – Edgar Wright
Cinematography by – Jake Polonsky
Edited by – Paul Trewartha
Production/Distribution Companies – MRC, Complete Fiction Pictures, Focus Features & Universal Pictures
Featuring – Ron Mael, Russell Mael, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Beck, Flea, Jonathan Ross, Patton Oswalt, Scott Aukerman, Jason Schwartzman, Tony Visconti, Mike Myers, Giorgio Moroder, Fred Armisen, Neil Gaiman, Earle Mankey, Harley Feinstein, Todd Rundgren, Nick Heyward, Steve Jones, John Hewlett, Christi Haydon, Leslie Bohem, Björk, Alex Kapranos, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert, Vince Clarke, Stevie Nistor, Andy Bell, Lance Robertson, John Taylor, Nick Rhodes, Jane Wiedlin, April Richardson, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Daniel Palladino, Tosh Berman, Pamela Des Barres, Martyn Ware, Mark Gatiss, Adam Buxton, Jack Antonoff, Thurston Moore, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg & Nick Frost
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: na; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: R