May 22, 2019
Dr. Feelgood here, back with another string of Netflix Original films, starting with a film that’s not the same ol’ situation, but will kickstart your heart with looks that kill, and involves girls, girls, girls that will make you feel like home sweet home so you don’t go away mad. For a few other music-related biopics, check out the Oscar and Golden Globe winning “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Episode #378) and “El Potro: Unstoppable” (Episode #374).
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Here we go!
Today’s movie is “The Dirt”, the Netflix Original biopic directed by Jeff Tremaine and written for the screen by Amanda Adelson and Rich Wilkes. The film follows the meteoric rise of the big hair band and umlaut-enthusiasts Mötley Crüe, comprised of Tommy Lee (Machine Gun Kelly), Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon), Vince Neil (Daniel Webber), and Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth). The film is based on the autobiography written by the band members and notorious author and ghostwriter Neil Strauss.
One of the things I appreciate the most about today’s media is the diversity of content currently being produced. Network and cable television have moved into this sector with their own advertisement and subscription driven services. New media companies like Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix have taken subscription services to a new level, greenlighting incredible content that never would have been viable. There’s a scene in “The Dirt”, just as Mötley Crüe is hitting it big, where the band’s manager turns to the camera and says, “They were making more money than ever before, and spending it even faster.” That’s exactly how I feel about Netflix, finding great creators to invest within, but also throwing money at questionable concepts. Not every story needs to be told as a film. It’s not a popular opinion, but there it is, and after seeing today’s film, I’m pretty sure Mötley Crüe’s story isn’t worth telling.
I’m not shitting on Mötley Crüe. Not one bit. I grew up with them, attending both middle school and high school functions where their music was played at high volumes. I watched their videos growing up, and I’m pretty sure I owned one or two of their CDs. The adults I knew made fun of them and the rest of Big Hair Rock. My peers and those just slightly older than me thought they were one of the greatest bands of all time. And then they fell apart, and later I learned stories about their quintessential rock band story arc... forming, scraping by, getting a deal, enjoying success, succumbing to addiction, breaking up, side projects, reunions, and legacy. The same story in full of “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Episode #378). The same story cut tragically short in “El Potro: Unstoppable” (Episode #374). Only the details are different, which means if we’re going to continue this wave of music star biopics, then we need something more or bigger than simply telling a story. And that’s all we get with “The Dirt”.
“The Dirt” is all shock and no context, which is why we get a lot about Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, and Nikki Sixx, and almost nothing about Mick Mars. The actors are quite convincing at first, but never seem to grow for a film that hits all the broad strokes of their history. We never get the impact of any significant moment in their life, moving quickly from segment to segment, and aside from the news media parroting the previous events, never get a context in which to place Mötley Crüe within music and pop culture history. Every attempt to humanize each character, or to involve them in dramatic moments, ends up being undercut by all the tantalizing party shots involving sex and drugs, or the consequence-free acting out in public places. I can’t empathize with Sixx going through heroin addiction or Neil losing his daughter even a little bit, and that sucks. I can’t appreciate Sixx’s efforts to retain the rights to the band’s songs, or the immense pain and agony that Mick Mars must have been going through. Without a solid message, the film ends up feeling like someone was given an assignment to distill the source material into the most important parts, with a deadline and a fixed budget.
“The Dirt” is a biopic about the life and times of the infamous Mötley Crüe. While the film hits all the broad strokes of their story, it also lacks context within music history, and ends up feeling like a two-hour montage of tantalizing parties at the beginning and forced character growth towards the end. Fans of Mötley Crüe should definitely check out the film, but don’t expect anything profound or insightful. It is exactly what it is. Just like Mötley Crüe, for better or, in this case, worse.
Rotten Tomatoes: 39%
One Movie Punch: 2.9/10
“The Dirt” (2019) is rated TV-MA and is currently playing on Netflix.