January 30, 2023

This overview is a part of our protection of the 2023 Sundance Movie Competition.


The Pitch: Willie Nelson is an American unique. Broadly thought to be one of many biggest singer-songwriters within the historical past of standard music, the redheaded stranger himself has lived a life that poises him as an unbelievable documentary topic. The five-part collection, which premiered Friday, January twentieth at this yr’s Sundance Movie Competition, positions itself because the “first and solely documentary” about his life, permitting him to inform his story in his personal phrases.

Willie Nelson & Household assembles a powerful assortment of oldsters round him to take action. This consists of fellow musicians like Dolly Parton, Invoice Anderson, Brenda Lee, Jeannie Seely, Kenny Chesney, Margo Worth, and Wynton Marsalis, together with historian Michael Grey and author John Spong. The documentary is rounded out by members of Willie’s household, his band referenced within the title, and varied longtime workforce members and confidantes.

On the Street: Administrators Thom Zimny and Oren Moverman supply two very stacked resumes: Zimny is a Grammy and Emmy-winning artist who has directed documentaries about Bruce Springsteen, Elvis, and Johnny Money. He clearly is aware of easy methods to discover the story of a musician like Nelson, particularly when becoming a member of forces with an Academy Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker like Moverman. The snags in Willie Nelson & Household don’t a lot really feel like a case of too many cooks within the kitchen as they really feel like proof of the significance of enhancing: The 2 minds behind the documentary actually gathered a wealth of testimonies, footage, photographs, and tales, however don’t appear keen to half with any of it.

Willie Nelson & Household may need labored higher as a movie, or might’ve been trimmed and condensed to a few components. Total, the 5 episodes really feel sadly missing in focus; whereas a meandering, non-linear construction (or lack thereof) actually feels applicable for the topic of the documentary, it doesn’t make for probably the most participating materials for the viewer.

Roll Me Up and Smoke Me: We start with loads of time spent in Nelson’s adolescence and adventurous teen years, hopping trains, inflicting bother, and worrying concerning the state of his soul all through. (Strive to not giggle at his frank supply of “We solely had three issues to do: battle, fuck, and throw rocks.”) A number of the threads within the first two episodes tie into the tales that finally grew to become Nelson’s iconic Redheaded Stranger album, however with no central narrative, leaping between his failed time within the Air Pressure, marital and monetary strains, and songwriting struggles feels erratic.

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