January 30, 2023

This evaluate is a part of our protection of the 2023 Sundance Movie Pageant.


The Pitch: Willie Nelson is an American authentic. Broadly thought to be one of many biggest singer-songwriters within the historical past of common music, the redheaded stranger himself has lived a life that poises him as an unimaginable documentary topic. The five-part sequence, which premiered Friday, January twentieth at this 12 months’s Sundance Movie Pageant, 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 formidable assortment of parents round him to take action. This contains fellow musicians like Dolly Parton, Invoice Anderson, Brenda Lee, Jeannie Seely, Kenny Chesney, Margo Value, 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 staff members and confidantes.

On the Highway: Administrators Thom Zimny and Oren Moverman provide 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 learn how 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 modifying: The 2 minds behind the documentary actually gathered a wealth of testimonies, footage, images, and tales, however don’t appear prepared to half with any of it.

Willie Nelson & Household may need labored higher as a movie, or might’ve been trimmed and condensed to 3 elements. General, the 5 episodes really feel sadly missing in focus; whereas a meandering, non-linear construction (or lack thereof) actually feels acceptable 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 youth and adventurous teen years, hopping trains, inflicting bother, and worrying concerning the state of his soul all through. (Attempt to not chuckle at his frank supply of “We solely had three issues to do: combat, fuck, and throw rocks.”) A few of the threads within the first two episodes tie into the tales that ultimately 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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