MVD Visual // 2011 // 123 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // December 12th, 2012
The potentially true story of the last best band...
One moment really sums up the Replacements for me: It's 1985, the band has just come off the critical success of their final indie album Let it Be, and they've just signed to a major label (Warner subsidiary Sire). They record the album Tim, which many listeners think is their best. It includes a song, "Bastards of Young," that's among the most anthemic the band would write, a rallying cry for the alienated. The year 1985 is also early in the rise of MTV, and the band pairs this near-perfect song with the burgeoning video format. The recipe is there for the band to become the next R.E.M.; all they needed was a clever video. What the band delivered was a 4-minute shot of someone's hi-fi playing the song while a partial figure smoked in the foreground. As one commentator in Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements puts it, something like "It's kinda dumb, kinda brilliant, kinda Replacements." That's exactly right; that moment sums up the brilliance the band could display (both the song, and creating a video/anti-video before it was cool) as well as their self-sabotage (if they'd made a more traditional video they probably could have made millions). Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements uses fan recollections to tell the story of the Replacements, from their most brilliant moments to their most boneheaded stunts. It's a loving portrait of a group of rock 'n' roll heroes that doesn't whitewash even as it mythologizes a band who released some of the greatest music of the 1980s.
The Replacements have a standard history. Craft by the anarchic guitar stylings of Bob Stinson married to the classical pop of Paul Westerberg, The Replacements released a couple of rough early records before hitting their stride with Let it Be and Tim. They garnered much of their fame from infamous live shows that saw lots of drunken antics, heartfelt playing, and unpredictable quality levels. After Tim, Stinson was fired, and the band limped on in the majors, releasing a couple of largely ill-received albums before a public breakup onstage while opening for Tom Petty on the Fourth of July.
In the same way that the Replacements weren't a typical rock band, Color Me Obsessed is not a typical rock documentary. Most rock docs include three things that Color Me Obsessed has no use for: the band's music, live footage, and interviews with band members. Of course, many documentaries about musical figures lack one or more of these components. Usually it's because they either can't afford the musical rights, or the band members don't want to participate (either because they don't care, don't like the filmmaker, or just want more control over the final product). What separates Color Me Obsessed is that it never wanted to include those things in the first place.
Instead, Color Me Obsessed goes straight to the fans to hear what happened with the band and what made them great. In that respect, the film takes a pretty traditional approach, chronologically covering the band's output album by album. Various fans show up to talk about what makes each album great, how much the band was drinking during that time, or just how (in)famous the band had gotten. Many of the most famous stories about the band are told, but rather than presenting a bunch of different stories, director Gorman Bechard gives us multiple fan perspectives on some of the band's more famous moments. This has the effect of simultaneously breaking down the band's mythology while also building up their greatness.
Of course calling Color Me Obsessed a fan-oriented documentary might be a bit misleading; this is no Heavy Metal Parking Lot. Though a significant percentage of the interviewees are essentially random people who just happen to be Replacements fans, many of those who appear on camera are famous in their own right. From Norm on Cheers (George Wendt) to those who owe much of their musical careers to their love of the Replacements, like Colin Meloy of the Decembrists, Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem, and Craig Finn of the Hold Steady. The high-profile interviewees balance out the more "on the ground" perspective of some of the fans. Between the two, we get a good idea of the band's history and their continuing influence on rock music.
Color Me Obsessed also gets a solid DVD release with this two-disc set. Shot on video, this 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer does the film's look justice. Everything looks fine, with a generally clean, bright image that's free from artefacting. The 5.1 surround audio does a fine job with the interview material. Dialogue is clear and audible throughout the film, with little volume jockeying necessary to keep everything listenable.
Extras start on Disc One with a pair of commentaries. Disc One features director Gorman Bechard, who talks about the genesis of the project, his own Replacements experiences, and production stories from the film. Similarly, the second commentary is with Jan Radder. He talks about his own experiences with the project as well. The disc also houses nineteen deleted scenes, which are worth exploring for fans. Disc Two includes the full interviews of several participants, including Grant Hart and Robert Christgau. There are also some behind-the-scenes interviews with Bechard and co-producer Hansi Oppenheimer. Finally, there are some trailers for the film.
Those completely unfamiliar with the Replacements will at least be convinced to give the band a try after Color Me Obsessed. Fans of the band might not learn anything from the film that they didn't already know, but seeing the shared enthusiasm for a great band is a good experience, and there are enough interesting supplements on this set to keep even hardcore fans coming back.
Like the band it documents, Color Me Obsessed isn't perfect, but it's not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2012 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: MVD Visual
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 123 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Interviews