Don’t you love when a new music artist finds their way into your life, and you get that rewarding experience of discovery? I remember the days of buying an artist’s whole discography on CD and just taking a deep dive through all their work. That experience is engrossing and impactful as you hear every hit and hidden gem imaginable. The feeling is the same now even if the media are different (I just switched myself over to Spotify to go along with my growing record collection). Music documentaries have had great impacts on me in the past (especially my personal favorite of Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage which helped launch my love for my now favorite band). I felt so excited to have a similar experience this summer when I got the privilege to screen Edgar Wright’s new documentary The Sparks Brothers.
Did Wright really direct a documentary? Did I hear that right? You sure did and this film is an inspiring and thoroughly entertaining journey through the incredible story of Sparks, a cult band whose miraculous career has spanned 50 years. But how could this be? Who are Sparks? I have never heard of this band and now one of the most famous directors in the world is creating a passion project to celebrate their career. After watching this documentary, I wanted to dive headlong into the expanse that is Sparks’ career (which I will do so with a little help from my friends at Spotify). Sparks is a bold and inventive band led by two brothers from California, Ron and Russell Mael. Their quirky and unique approach to their art has created an expansive discography filled with music across the spectrum.
But how does Wright do right but the unsung story of the brothers Mael? When you have one of the most unique and energetic directors in the world directing your documentary, you know it is going to stand out. Where many documentaries lack a personality, The Sparks Brothers boasts all the personality. Wright brings his sharp editing style with some bold visual storytelling (including some fun animated sequences) which makes this film standout amongst the saturated world of rock documentaries. Putting the Mael brothers at the forefront of their own story is also the right choice as they bring a sense of earnestness to the story. They also don’t pull punches or avoid discussing their shortcomings (I have seen too many pristine rock docs that falter because of such a safe choice). The wide range of guest analysts on the documentary is quite impressive. Beck…Mike Myers…Weird Al…OH MY. This wide range of artists brings various perspectives and personalities to the film which enhance it in the best ways.
Do you feel ready for the roc doc event of the year? Not since the likes of Scorsese, have we gotten such high-profile talent behind a music documentary (which is exciting). Wright elevates this tale with his flair and personality as a director. Does he take a straightforward approach to the narrative timeline? Yes, the film is mostly presented in a clear and simple linear path. Is it a little too long? That could certainly be argued at a runtime of two-hours and twenty-minutes. But I sit here bitten by the Wright bug as well as the Sparks bug. Do yourself a favor and experience this film…then experience Sparks for yourself.