“It Might Get Loud,” a film by David Guggenheim, gathers together three talented musicians who are largely considered gods in their field, or at least very distictive entities.
The Edge, from U2, Jimmy Page, of the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin, and Jack White, of the White Stripes and the Raconteurs, all have contributed unique sounds to the popular rock landscape, partly culled from each’s particular background and passion.
On its face, it’s hard to distinguish exactly what the film’s focus is, but the prospect of putting these three men in a room, and going on adventures with them through their musical adolescence thrills the imagination.
Below, HitFix music critics Melinda Newman and Katie Hasty discuss their reactions to “It Might Get Loud,” which opens tomorrow (Aug. 14), via instant messenger.
IS JIMMY PAGE EVEN A U2 FAN?
Katie: Did you feel underwhelmed by this film? overwhelmed?
Melinda: I felt underwhelmed, much to my heartbreaking dismay. There are parts, which we’ll discuss, that sent my heart beating and my toes tapping, but I don’t feel it works as a total piece. What are your thoughts?
Katie: I thought it was disjointed as a narrative. I went in thinking it’d be guitar gods talking about guitars… which they did… but it was almost awkward how the filmmakers were forcing these relationships, when these dudes are just SO DIFFERENT.
Katie: I did, however, appreciate each musician more after having seen it. Jack White is such a badass.
Melinda: They all play the guitar… quite well, in fact. They are all fans of each other’s music… I think? I’m not so sure either Page or White were U2 fans.
Katie: …Or if Page is a fan of White. Or if Page is just on another planet, far superior and purer than this clumsy one of ours…
Melinda: But that’s all they really share. Jimmy Page comes from a love of skiffle and R&B and folks like Link Wray. Then we have Jack White, who clearly comes from blues. (The scene where he’s listening to the Son House record is divine and the best moment of all.) Then we have The Edge who comes from punk and new age…
Katie: I loved the Son House moment. It was like the “this band will change your life” scene in “Garden State,” only 1000% more heartfelt and skin-prickling
Melinda: Jack White is a badass, but more than that, he is the ABSOLUTE heart and soul of the movie. He is on a different level (not talent wise or significance, just heart and the way he shows it) than the other guys in the movie.
WHAT IT MEANS TO HATE AMERICA
Melinda: Okay, let’s go back to what you feel worked and didn’t work.
Katie: I don’t think the dialogue — the three men sitting on chairs and talking – ended up very seemless or intriguing. The idea of it was much more tantalizing, moreso than the actual wet towel that persisted.
Melinda: I was so, so disappointed by that part.
Katie: It should’ve been every fanboys’ perfect orgasm of all ages of all time and instead it was like, “So, how ’bout them Mets?”
Melinda: There is a moment when the three of them are together and Page starts to play “Whole Lotta Love” and White and The Edge look like they’re about to genuflect. They’re school boys put to shame. But, then, nothing seems to work when they’re playing “The Weight” at the end.
Katie: I know, “The Weight” felt (heh) forced – even though Jack nailed that noise.
Katie: But I also have come to loathe that song. Does that mean I hate America?
Melinda: No, that’s okay. You’re not a secret terrorist. You can take the load off…. and put the load right on me.
Katie: GAR! (HEAD EXPLODES!)
Melinda: I think the director, David Guggenheim, was too in awe of the talent… The individual episodes worked much, much better.
Katie: Yeah, there was a lot of fawning. Guggenheim fawnage.
Katie: But how can you not when JIMMY PAGE is walking you through the very HOUSE where “WHEN THE LEVEE BREAKS” was recorded. I just now got goosebumps just thinking about that. It was like an eclipse, like, that shit actually happened right here, in this universe.
Melinda: Yes! You know that something magical had been created there…amid all the debauchery.
THE EDGE’S CRUMMY KITCHEN
Melinda: Here were some moments that stuck w/ me: I loved it when The Edge played the four-track of “Where the Streets Have No Name” in that crummy little kitchen. First off, I absolutely love that riff and there’s just an exhilaration that followed… and how at that point, as well as they were doing, they had no idea that were on the verge of becoming the biggest band in the world.
Katie: And, like, “Here’s the little grammar school classroom we practiced in.” It’s crazy that it didn’t have burn marks all over it from the scorching-hot rock… At least the kind of rock U2 was making back in that day…
Melinda: Oh, I loved the classroom part too — with the lockers, the bulletin board where Larry Mullen Jr. put up the band notice — musical history changed that day…
Melinda: That’s the thing. There are some GREAT moments in the film, but I don’t even know if I can recommend it. If you’re a real guitar-head, it’s not going to be techy/wonky enough for you. If you’re just a fan of all three, I don’t know if it hangs together well enough. That makes me sad.
Katie: Yeah, they focus only a little on their personal guitars, but any more would lose people. There’s only so many gearheads…
EATING WITH JIMMY PAGE
Katie: But that’s it too: this is a movie for guitar-rock fans. But not gear heads, and not just for fans of just U2 or White Stripes or Zep fans. It’s not for documentary fans, necessarily, either. Its “thesis” is just too broad. Though, I loved the vintage footage…
Melinda: I wanted more of certain things… I think you could have done a full doc on each one of them (obviously), but I loved when The Edge was talking about how, clearly, growing up in Northern Ireland during the height of the IRA influenced them — even though we already know that… still fascinating to me
Melinda: And yes — the footage of U2 playing on some TV show is hysterical, simply because they are so bad… I can’t figure out how they morphed into what they became. I wouldn’t have signed them, I’m ashamed to say. Good thing I don’t do A&R.
Katie: Heh. Well that was Page’s whole thing too: nobody “got” what we were doing.
Melinda: The Edge explaining how he built his own guitar when he was 14, or Jack White talking about his first guitar from Montgomery Ward — I liked the message that it has nothing to do with the instrument, it has everything to do with who is playing it.
Katie: Which is interesting, because I don’t think I got to know “who is playing it” any better than before, except for Jack White.
Katie: I’m like, “Gosh, The Edge sure seems nice. Gosh, Jimmy Page sure has a nice house…”
Melinda: Ah… very interesting point. You’re saying you feel like you didn’t have any better understanding about their process afterwards– although, as Page tells us, “I can’t tell you what a process is… “
Katie: Yeah. And Page’s personality doesn’t shine through. Unless that was the point?
Melinda: So, after watching the movie, whom would you want to have dinner with to continue the conversation about music?
Katie: Man, that’d be tough. Jack white was very smart, insightful. And I don’t think I could eat in front of Jimmy Page.
GETTING PAID IS NICE
Melinda: What was your reaction as a musician?
Katie: I think musicians would get a kick out of seeing successful musicians talking about once-upon-a-time, when-we-sucked.
Katie: White felt like the only rags-to-riches story, but they all explained their creative struggle exquisitely.
Katie: Jack White said “I’m trying to get away with anything, everything.”
Katie: The Edge is like, “I’m trying to explain my context and where I’m coming from.”
Katie: Jimmy page is like, “No one understood what we were going for, and I can’t explain it to you now.”
Katie: And I think that’s really inspiring for musicians to witness
Melinda: Not just musicians… anyone who has passion for anything.
Katie: These aren’t just dudes who wanna get paid. Even jimmy page said that, when he was talking about just being studio meat.
Melinda: No, but getting paid is a nice perk. : )
BLOOD ON THE PICKGUARD
Melinda: So… should people plunk down their hard earned money to go see the movie or should they use that money to buy some music?
Katie: Wait, people buy music?
Melinda: Hah! Good point…
Katie: Better yet, just buy a ticket to a freaking show, and add the movie to the Netflix queue. That way, you can see blood on the pickguard live, in person!
Melinda: I think we’re both giving it Thumbs Sideways…
Katie: Blistered, callused thumbs.