Reviewed by Colin Jacobson
Considering the topic of this review, my next few sentences may seem rather convenient, but I swear they’re true. Back when college friends and I would play “what if” games, once we discussed this question: if you could become another person for a month, who would it be? I picked Mick Jagger. For one, I’ve been a big Stones fan for years, so it’d be cool to experience the music from that first-person viewpoint.
In addition, it’d be interesting to see what it’s like to be so intensely famous. Of all my favorite artists, Jagger isn’t my most preferred; there are a handful of others I like more. However, of the folks on that roster, he’s the most famous and most recognizable. I suppose McCartney would be around the same level, but frankly, who seems more interesting: Paul or Mick? McCartney’s so dull that it probably wouldn’t be nearly as much fun to examine the world through his eyes.
Really, among my favorites, the only competition in the fame and power stakes is Madonna. Actually, she’s likely surpassed Jagger in those areas, but I’d still prefer to see what it’s like to be Mick, if for no other reason than the babes. Even as he pushes 60, Jagger can pull in hotties left and right. (Granted, so could Madonna, but if I’m going to deal with sex, I’d rather do it from the standpoint of my own gender.)
Being Mick didn’t allow me to live out my fantasy, and it didn’t really give us a very good idea what life for the megastar is like. However, it did provide an entertaining look behind the curtain that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Of course, the documentary features no plot, but it does cover a theme of sorts. The program examines the period in which Jagger created his fourth solo album, 2001’s Goddess in the Doorway. Interspersed with those moments, we see Mick as he produces the film Enigma and goes through his daily life of drugs, alcohol, and sacrificial virgins.
Okay, I made up the last bits. You’ll encounter no decadence during Being Mick; we’ll have to hope for a release of the infamous documentary jdsla Blues to get that. Instead, Being Mick badly wants to convince us that Jagger’s a true family man and artiste. The program captures many moments that involve his apparently never-ending roster of children. These show Mick the doting daddy, and frankly, they bored me. I don’t doubt that Jagger loves his kids, but I couldn’t care less about the topic.
Mick thrived when it stuck to Jagger’s profession. Goddess included a minor roster of celebrity guest stars, and we run into most of them here. This leads to some of the program’s best moments. We watch Bono as he records his vocals for “Joy” and has lunch with Jagger, and we also check out Pete Townshend as he and Jagger discuss public transportation, of all things; apparently Pete takes the tube at times, whereas Mick can’t go anywhere near such places.
For the record, I didn’t take Jagger’s refusal to ride the rails as arrogance. Though famous, Townshend remains obscure enough that he can get away with such a thing, but the sight of Mick Jagger sitting solo on a subway train would cause an enormous ruckus. It would create real problems, so I can’t blame him for his avoidance, especially since I believe he can afford other methods of transportation.
Speaking of which, a chartered jet flight provides Mick’s sole moment of genuine superciliousness. As Jagger tries to leave Germany, customs officials ask to see his passport. He claims not to have it and generally gives them a moderately hard time. Jagger doesn’t seem angry, but he appears genuinely amused that someone would force Mick Jagger to prove his identity. This leads to a mocking chat on board the departed plane. Mick’s snottiness makes this his least appealing appearance in the program.
While Mick definitely doesn’t qualify as a “tell all” documentary, it does provide a few good glimpses behind the scenes. We watch Jagger and Elton John discuss their reactions to Madonna’s then-current tour, and we hear Kate Winslet - the star of Enigma - query if those two musicians had a tiff. (As Jagger points out, Kate made a mistake; Elton and Keith Richards bickered at each other through the press.)
We also see some spooky obsessed fans, an element that helps explain Jagger’s occasionally cool public demeanor. He blows off some of these folks and also treats them in a fairly terse manner. On the surface, he might look arrogant and cold, but since the footage helps us understand just how fanatical these people are, we can better comprehend his behavior. Jagger doesn’t need to encourage them, as such actions could literally endanger him.
Mick doesn’t include a ton of those moments, but what it shows seems interesting. On a lighter note, I was amused to hear Jagger explain why he’d never be knighted; less than a year after he made this proclamation, he received that very honor. It’s also fun to meet Mick’s dad, and I liked the voyage to Lenny Kravitz’ house. That abode looks like the Seventies exploded inside it; Kravitz must have told the designer, “Make me a rock star mansion!” and that was that. (This isn’t a criticism - I actually thought Kravitz’ house seemed really cool.)
In the end, I can’t call Being Mick a very revealing documentary. It exists to promote Goddess; in fact, it originally aired on broadcast TV around the time of the album’s release. The program definitely could use a stronger focus on music and Jagger’s creative process. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the show quite a bit and thought it offered just enough compelling bits to keep my attention.
The DVD Grades: Picture D+ / Audio C / Bonus B
Being Mick appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Shot mainly on fairly low-resolution video equipment, Mick showed its origins and presented a rather unattractive picture.
Sharpness seemed erratic. While the show displayed many acceptably distinct and accurate shots, quite a few others came across as fairly soft and fuzzy. The picture never achieved any level of consistency, as it jumped from relatively crisp to decidedly unfocused rapidly. Jagged edges caused frequent problems, and I saw lots of shimmering in backgrounds. Video artifacts also popped up at times, and those lent the image a rather grainy appearance. (Some scenes displayed intentional grain, such as the black and white shots of Jagger’s French mansion.) Much of the time the program displayed a rough, blocky look.
Colors usually looked faded and pale. Occasionally the show mustered some reasonably lively and vivid hues, but much of the time, the tones appeared flat and indistinct. Black levels also seemed somewhat washed out, and the program displayed an excessively bright appearance much of the time.
All of these issues made Being Mick a fairly ugly affair, but in its defense, I believe that the filmmakers wanted it to seem that way. In their attempts to give it a feeling of cinema verite, they likely figured that a professional and polished production would seem too slick. That meant cheap equipment would best make the experience seem “real”, so for better or for worse, that’s what we got. Mick remained watchable, but it definitely seemed unattractive.
The Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Being Mick improved upon the picture, but not to an immense degree. For the most part, the program offered a monaural mix. Really, only music cropped up from the sides, and even then, a lot of the work remained in the center. Oddly, most of Mick’s songs seemed virtually totally monaural; other material showed decent stereo spread, but not the tracks from Goddess. The surrounds added virtually nothing to the experience; if they contributed any audio, it didn’t evolve beyond basic reinforcement.
Audio quality appeared acceptable but lackluster for the most part. Dialogue usually sounded reasonably natural and distinct, though some edginess occasionally interfered with those elements. Effects were a very minor aspect of the mix. Since the same cheap equipment that shot the program captured them, those aspects of the track sounded fairly thin and bland, but they caused no discernible problems. Music showed somewhat limited range for the most part. Some of the songs sounded acceptably vibrant, but the track lacked substantial dynamics and failed to provide very bright highs or deep lows.
The soundtrack of Mick presented the material in a fairly lifeless manner. As with the picture, some of these flaws may have occurred intentionally. The filmmakers may have felt - appropriately, perhaps - that crystal-clear audio would distract from the documentary visuals. In a way, that viewpoint makes sense, as a strong mismatch between picture and sound could take the viewer out of the experience. However, I remain disappointed that a program with this much music would reproduce it so weakly.
Being Mick includes a fairly nice roster of extras. We get two music videos. “God Gave Me Everything” uses a gimmicky camera technique that maintains a constant steadicam shot on Jagger and his guest stars Lenny Kravitz and Some Chick I Don’t Recognize. It’s a solid rocker and a fairly entertaining video. “Visions of Paradise” offers another good song, and the video seems intriguing as well. It focuses on some white-collar shmoe. Jagger’s mystical presence encourages this guy to break out of his rut and go off with a supermodel. Mick also does some of the standard lip-synching.
More music shows up via some performance clips. Goddess In the Doorway comes from the album release party at the El Rey Theater. The 18-minute piece starts with a quick quote from Jagger that relates why he did another solo record now, and we hear more from him as the program progresses; all of his remarks appear between songs. The piece starts with “God Gave Me Everything” and then progresses through “Visions of Paradise” and “Everybody Getting High”. Jagger’s interview bits add some interesting material, but the absence of chapter stops creates potential problems; it’ll be a pain to skip to the different songs.
Don’t Call Me Up takes us from the wild El Rey crowd to a more intimate setting. It shows Jagger as he works out the song in demo form; Mick plays acoustic guitar while accompanied by Matt Clifford on piano. At only 86 seconds, it’s a quick snippet, but it’s good to hear the tune in its basic form.
Finally, the Home Movies domain includes 17 minutes of outtakes from the documentary. Unlike the compelling interview clips in between the “Doorway” numbers, these snippets largely feel like leftovers. They include some decent material, such as a loose acoustic rendition of “Dead Flowers” and some attempts to work out new songs, but most of the snippets come across as moderately dull.
One nice touch: all of the extras on the DVD provide English subtitles. Too few studios offer that detail, so I felt pleased to see them here.
At no point during Being Mick will you really start to understand the superstar’s take on life, but the show offers a generally entertaining piece nonetheless. I’d prefer something with a stronger focus on his creative side, but the program includes enough material of that sort to keep a fan like myself interested in it. Due to the intentionally low-tech nature of the project, picture and quality seem fairly weak, but it tosses in some nice extras that help round out the disc. With a reasonable list price of $19.99, Being Mick is a must-have for Stones fans, and others with an interest in Jagger will likely enjoy it as well.
(Oh, and Goddess In the Doorway merits a listen as well. Jagger’s solo albums don’t seem to earn much attention, but all of them include some solid material, and the newest one’s no exception. It doesn’t compete with top-notch Stones, but then again, not much does. Doorway works well despite a few inevitable misfires.)
Viewer Film Ratings: 3.9473 Stars|| Number of Votes: 19|