1988: You come over to my parents' house, walk down the basement stairs, knock on my door. I can't hear you because I'm either listening to "Appetite for Destruction" or Metallica's "And Justice For All." You come in. I'm playing either air guitar or air drums. You tell me you have a documentary about Metallica you'd like to show me. "Awesome," I say. "Metallica!"
2005: You come over to my apartment. I'm cooking dinner and drinking a beer. You tell me you have a documentary about Metallica you'd like to show me, directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. "Awesome," I say. "Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky!"
I still pull out "And Justice For All" and give it a listen every year or two, but I have zero interest in the music Metallica has made since then. I wanted to see this documentary mostly because it was directed by a filmmaking team responsible for two of my favorite documentaries ("Paradise Lost" and "Brother's Keeper"). Still, I was unprepared for the masterpiece of unintentional hilarity I witnessed. This is a band made up of three guys who desperately, achingly despise each other and the massive, sluggish beast their band has become, but are too complacent, stupid, bloated, or terrified to break up. They can't even communicate with each other, so they hire a $40,000-dollar-a-month therapist, Phil Towle, to mediate and bring them together, though Towle himself grows clingingly attached to the band in a supremely dysfunctional relationship of his own, and his dubious methods include telling the band members to cherish their time together and sticking Post-It notes all over the studio reading, "The Zone: Admission is Believing!" The band members' relationships with each other are an unhealthy, neurotic mess. Kirk Hammett is a dumb but sweet nice guy who is trampled on by Lars Ulrich's and James Hetfield's colossal egos and his own passive nature. Ulrich is a pompous, preening buffoon who I couldn't be in a band with for 20 seconds, let alone 20 years. He mutters a lot of sub-freshman pseudo-intellectual philosophy/bullshit, sells his massive modern art collection at auction for millions while getting drunk on champagne and expects us to feel sorry for him because he no longer has the paintings in his multi-million dollar home, and disagrees with every major band decision just to be a dick and drag out the misery indefinitely. Hetfield comes across as the smartest one in the bunch and is actually pretty likeable, but he controls the band, too, with his titanically powerful passive aggression. Also, he's a terrible lyricist. Other things I enjoyed: Ulrich's Danish hippie father, the visual equivalent of Gandalf sauteed in a dirty pan and scraped out with a spatula after sticking to the pan, listens to a batch of songs from early in the recording process and tells his son the new stuff sucks and sounds like "some guy yelling in an echo chamber." Ulrich and Hammett see Echobrain, ex-bassist Jason Newsted's new band, and go backstage after the show to talk to Newsted, but he's already left. Ulrich and Hammett chat briefly and nervously with the other members of Echobrain, then hang around the empty club, paralyzed by their own embarrassment. It's obvious to compare this to Spinal Tap, but it truly is an unintentional remake.
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