I just had to review the Foo Fighters movie Back and Forth even though I have maybe only reviewed like three other movies for this site. After covering the release of the Foo Fighter’s new record pretty extensively on Sick Chirpse and being suitably amazed at the PR stunt of showing their documentary for one night only at 8pm at cinemas all over England (and Croatia too it seems) it seemed only fitting that I went down and checked it out. I would also be lying if I said i wasn’t pretty excited about it.
To begin this review, I can kind of pretty much summarise the Foo Fighters movie in about a sentence – it was pretty much like one of those Behind The Music specials on VH1 (which I also always enjoyed, except that one that said Green Day’s success was solely reliant on the popularity of Nirvana….um what?) but with a bigger budget and access to HD cameras. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, i’m just setting up the format – a bunch of talking head shots from various members of the band throughout its 16 years history dispersed with a narrative completed by the associated live footage and stills.
And for the most part it’s great. Although it’s unlikely you’ll glean any new knowledge if you’re a die-hard Foo Fighters fan, it deals with the major events and landmarks of the band’s history in an orderly and refined manner and neatly fits them into around 100 minutes. Granted, some parts are perhaps overlong – the recording of the new album for instance, but we’ll get to that – and others undervalued – the three albums in between There’s Nothing Left to Lose and Wasting Light are barely given any time – but ultimately the movie presents a well rounded picture of the history of the Foo Fighters and is probably destined to be watched by millions of aspiring musicians over the course of the next ten years. It should be noted too that the section on Nirvana at the beginning of the movie – which obviously needed to be included, but could quite easily have snowballed out of control – was probably given just the right amount of time, for which director James Moll should be applauded.
Two things I didn’t like about it though were the way that the issues surrounding the band’s lineup in their formative years seemed to be ever so slightly scooted over when the trailer kind of hinted that there would be a lot more trouble/beef about it, and the way that the final part of the movie really just turned into an extended promo for Wasting Light. Although the issues of William Goldsmith and Franz Stahl’s departures are both covered, I felt like there was more dirt that could have been shed as everyone involved – and again James Moll should be applauded for getting both to talk on camera about it – seems fairly reserved about it and the movie doesn’t really pass judgment on either side.
I guess that’s what it had to do to get released though and be signed off by the Foo Fighters and their management and it has been a long time since these things happened so both parties do speak more candidly over it, although you can really see the tears in Stahl’s eyes when he recounts his two years with the band as the best of his life and tells how he was kicked out of the band via a phone call because of a lack of chemistry. It’s kind of heartbreaking but the movie doesn’t spend enough time on it for it really to be impactful, obviously though this is a movie about the Foo Fighters and not Franz Stahl so that makes sense. Grohl sums up the issue of band membership and the necessity of change with the last line of the movie fairly effectively though: ‘I feel bad for the stuff that happened with William and the stuff that happened with Franz but i feel good about the good stuff, and if that stuff hadn’t happened then the Foo Fighters wouldn’t sound like the Foo Fighters today.’ Here’s a picture of Franz Stahl, as I don’t really feel like anyone knows who he is:
I didn’t really enjoy the final part of the Foo Fighters movie which detailed the recording process for Wasting Light for different reasons, as it pretty much just turned the movie into a promo for that record – although I guess that was pretty much the point of it being made in the first place. Wow, Bob Gould is singing on it. Wow Krist Novoselic is playing bass on it. Wow Butch Vig is recording it. Wow its on tape in Dave Grohl’s house and all their families are there having BBQ’s and hanging out in the pool. Wow YOU HAVE TO BUY THIS RECORD, I got it OK? I mean, this part is OK but it didn’t really give enough insight into the recording process to be interesting for those who were actually interested in such topics, and just seemed overlong for anyone else wanting to know stuff about the Foo Fighters – unless you wanted to know how often Dave Grohl told his daughter he couldn’t play in the pool with her because he had to finish guitar parts/write lyrics. Just kidding, although this does happen in the movie it’s more for laughs and Grohl actually comes off as a great family man in this section. I mean come on are you kidding? Everyone loves Dave Grohl. Except maybe William Goldsmith and Franz Stahl.
Although I’ve written two fairly lengthy paragraphs on these two issues they didn’t really detract from my overall enjoyment of this movie, and I would recommend it to anyone. One thing that the movie really did ram home to me is just HOW MANY massive hits the Foo Fighters have and just how seminal a band they now are and their story is definitely one worth paying attention to and James Moll presents it in a skilful and enjoyable format.
Having said that, I was kind of bored during the live performance which followed it – although it was shot really nicely and looked and sounded really good on the big screen I just couldn’t get that excited about watching a recorded Foo Fighters performance of them playing a record I had already heard and wasn’t really sure why it had even been included with the movie, so I left during the sixth song. This was kind of cool as I had never walked out of a cinema before though. It was also cool that there was a five minute interval between the movie and the performance – I had never seen that in a cinema before either. It really was a night of firsts.