We’re Getting Yet Another Biopic
I've been known as the "movie guy" in my various circles of friends since high school. I love movies. All kinds of movies. I go to the movie theatre just about every week, sometimes twice. I love the art of it all. One sub-genre, however, has grown to irritate me. I enjoyed them for a while. It evolved into a passive indifference. Now it's become full blown disdain.
Bio-pics. Movies spanning the life of a somewhat beloved figure of historical or cultural significance. Unfortunately awards season is generally pretty favorable to "Based on a True Story" films, especially if it's about about a figure of historical or cultural significance. To the point that biopics have become trite, and cliche.
Seriously, stop me if you've heard this one: "Beloved music icon goes through substance abuse only to find redemption with loved ones and kicks the bad habits." Sad story, yes. I'm definitely not making light of substance abuse. But did I just describe 3 upcoming films? Or like 20 films released in the past decade? Both, the answer is both. We've got Hank Williams, Sr., George Jones and Miles Davis biopics in the pipeline.
The broad brush strokes, the simplistic narrative arc, the climactic 3rd act redemption, you'll find them all in a biopic. Whether it's about country icon Johnny Cash in Walk The Line or gangster rap pioneers N.W.A. in Straight Outta Compton, they still feel like the same movie, telling essentially the same story when boiled down to their essentials. Music biopics just happen to be the most egregious. Ray (Ray Charles) is Walk the Line is La Bamba (Ritchie Valens) is Straight Outta Compton is Get On Up (James Brown). 2014's one-two punch of 20th century scientists, The Imitation Game (Alan Turing) and The Theory of Everything (Stephen Hawking) didn't do the genre any favors, either.
This isn't to say they are bad movies. Not by along shot, most of them were quite good, and very deserving of their accolades. I just don't have high hopes for the upcoming Hank Williams, Sr. bio-pic I Saw the Light with Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen (in theatres March 25th), or the just announced George Jones movie No Show Jones with Josh Brolin and Jessica Chastain (as Tammy Wynette), or Miles Ahead starring Don Cheadle as Miles Davis. I'm sure they'll be good with strong performances, beautiful scenery, a decent script... but ultimately so what?
Yeah, I've gone to see these films, and will probably continue to go see them. And I'll probably quite enjoy I Saw the Light and No Show Jones and Miles Ahead. But they just seem so easy and lacking any real heart. That's the "so what?" There's nothing inherently wrong with them... there just isn't anything really challenging about them either, despite being dressed up as these big, important, prestige films.
The "true story" films I do enjoy, in regards to covering famous people, are films like Selma or the upcoming Elvis & Nixon with Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey. They aren't the broad stroke, life and times of ______ type films. They're telling an interesting story of an interesting thing that happened to interesting people. Miles Ahead looks to at least toe that line between "Interesting Story" and "Life-and-Times Of."
So yeah, I'm proposing a 10-year moratorium on bio-pics. No "Life-and-Times Of" films... make some "Interesting Story" films instead. Maybe tip the scales in favor of "Interesting Story" films.