Judge Michael Nazarewycz remembers wishing he had Jessie's girl, too.
"This is a lot more than seeing your favorite pop musician; this is someone who is filling a need for these people."
As a Child of the '80s, I lived through the arc of Rick Springfield's career. I listened to hits like "Jessie's Girl" and "Love Somebody." I watched him play Dr. Noah Drake on the popular TV daytime soap General Hospital. I saw his big screen turn in Hard to Hold. Then he disappeared, and since (or despite) his return, I've always wondered what happened to the guy who could craft pop songs so great, they have a permanent home on my iPod today, some 30 years later.
Facts of the Case
An Affair of the Heart is not a documentary about singer Rick Springfield so much as it's a documentary about his affect on his fans, focusing specifically on seven of them. The first two are JoAnn and Sue, a pair of NJ women who became best friends after meeting at a Rick Springfield concert. The next are Jill and Steve, a couple who met online and got engaged on an annual Bahamas cruise hosted by Springfield.
The fifth is Laurie, a woman with lifelong chronic health issues. Next is Dustin, a young man of 14 who has had a friendship with Springfield since the rocker pulled the boy onstage when he was only 3 years old. Seventh is Reverend Kate Dennis, a minister who found strength in Springfield's music after a tragic event in her life.
Late in the film is coverage of Springfield's book tour.
When you see that a first-ever documentary about 1980s pop star Rick Springfield is named after one of his Top 10 singles, it's fair to expect that the documentary will include an overall look at Springfield's career. Yet An Affair of the Heart offers ZERO insight into Springfield's beginnings. There is nothing about his childhood in Australia or why he came to the US. Nor is there anything about how he handled (for better or worse) his immense popularity on the music charts and on TV. His disappearance from the music scene in the 1990s isn't discussed. The film makes a brief reference to his '80s popularity, and there is mention made, both by Springfield and by original MTV VJ Mark Goodman, that Springfield was not a nice guy during the heights of his career.
That's it. Everything else is either the fans or some present-day Springfield insight. Therein lies the the three key issues I have with this film.
Issue One: From the Springfield perspective, the film is more promotion than revelation. Other than a brief mention of his battle with depression (mostly late in the film, when he is pushing a new book), no insight into the subject is offered. This might not be so bad if the film were unauthorized or shot from the fan's perspective, but it isn't. It has Springfield's blessing.
Issue Two: The fan stories are extreme and uneven. I won't spoil anything, but I'll say this: of the seven fans mentioned, two get enough screen time that their segments start to take on the look of a reality show test reel. The other five? It's almost as if they won one of those old "I Want My MTV" contests, with the prize being an appearance in the film. Their tales are interesting but only superficially so.
Issue Three: Springfield is deified in this film. In addition to the seven subjects, the film is peppered with sycophants recounting the miles they've traveled to see him in concert or the number of shows they've taken in. My thought about halfway in was, "This film stops just short of saying that Rick Springfield and Jesus Christ have never been seen together."
It's creepy, really, not just the way some fans fawn all over him, but how they are celebrated for doing so. And there's a point late in the film where it's observed by a non-believer. This objective perspective, coupled with Springfield's involvement with the film, only makes it that much more unsettling. It's as if Springfield acknowledges his own deification, finds validity in it through the observation of the third party, and says, "Yep. That's about right. Leave it in the final cut."
Instead of a mini-concert, the DTS 5.1 audio sounded terribly uneven. There were times when Springfield's hits sounded better than they did in the '80s. There were even some new tracks that I would give a second listen to. But many of the transitions between music and dialogue are clumsy, and the sound quality of the numerous live performance clips ranged from bootleg to dub. The same problem plagues the video image. Some shots, like those on the cruise, are gorgeous, where others look like they are edited together from fan cams.
The extras are interesting. The slide show of stills from the film (set to a live version of "Jessie's Girl") is entirely unnecessary, as are most of the extended scenes. But two mini-docs of the film's screenings in Malibu and Toronto give a nice film fest feel, and two interviews—one with former girlfriend Linda Blair (The Exorcist) and one with former General Hospital co-star Jacklyn Zeman—give me what I had hoped to get from the film: insight into Springfield from people who really knew him, not just raves from those who idolize him.
The best of the bunch is one of the extended scenes, where Springfield speaks about his childhood ambition to be a musician, as well as his youthful opinion of his parents and their friends.
It's unfortunate that anyone who has only seen the movie (without the benefit of the DVD) will miss these insights.
To Springfield's credit, he is incredibly accessible to his fans, which is more than many artists today can say. And I don't really mean to judge. Everyone has their thing. Just as I scratch my head over some of these fans, others will scratch their heads over people with a passion for movies. The difference is that Martin Scorsese isn't making a documentary about how much people love him.
I've done everything for you. You've done nothing for me. Guilty.
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