First shown at 2008’s Sundance Film Festival, this 2008 rock documentary is about a Canadian metal band led by two lifelong friends, lead guitarist and singer, Steve “Lips” Kudrow and drummer Rob Reiner (no this is a different Rob Reiner), that still after 30’s year, pushing past the age of 50 now, still rock on in the hopes of getting a record label. They promised at the age of 14 that they would always rock together, who would have guessed how hard that promise would be to keep. These are guys that inspired a generation of rockers and never made a dime. So yeah this is a Rock and Roll documentary, but so much more.
This is not just one of the best rock and roll documentaries ever, this is one of the best documentaries period. I love this movie. It’s so far the best movie I’ve seen this year. While I love Watchmen to death and consider it the greatest thing I’ve ever seen, it’s not the best movie, Anvil! The Story of Anvil so far gets that honor. Granted it’s been a short year, but this movie is amazing. This is one of the most touching, horrifying, and introspective films you will see all year. You don’t have to like metal, god knows I don’t, hell you don’t even have to like music to love Anvil, because as much as Anvil is about the music, this documentary is about hope, the hope and dreams that live in all of us.
The film follows these two best friends, so close that they may as well be brothers, who have never given up their dream, against all odds and the crushing weight of reality, they still rock on, playing at shows with only 10 people watching, having to fight with promoters to get paid, having to work menial jobs just so they can play gigs and not get paid for them, because they just love the music, they believe. These two men, Rob Reiner and Lips are the most courageous and delusional people I have ever seen and perhaps you have to be delusional to be great. They don’t blame anyone or are jealous of those that made it. They’re just two honest men who hope they too will one day, now in their 50’s, make it big. I mean these guys are an inspiration for all struggling artists, for all those who have seen their dreams cast to the waste side, who may have gone on to successful careers but have always wondered what if. 99% of people never make it. This movie is for them, for us. The director of Anvil! The Story of Anvil, Sacha Gervasi is a big fan of Anvil who has found his true calling in filmmaking, but he too once was in a band before calling it quits, and that band went on to sell 10 million records- the world now knows them as Bush. So this film about lost dreams and perseverance is for Sacha as much as it is for us.
The opening of the movie tells everything you need to know about the metal band Anvil. It’s the summer of 1984, Anvil along with a large number of bands, played a sold out rock tour. From this legendary concert everyone made it, except one- Anvil. And then the movie goes on to talk about Anvil’s 1982 Metal on Metal album and how that album arguably started it all, started the Heavy Metal movement. Then Slash, Motorhead, Anthrax, and Metallica are interviewed and they all talk about how Anvil inspired them and were their hero’s growing up and how they got into music because of them, and you along with these musicians are left to ponder the question, “then why didn’t they make it?” And that question is the crux of this entire documentary.
When watching this film I was struck with a sort of déjà vu. The frontman Lips works as a catering delivery man, driving to schools and bringing the cafeteria food they’ll serve to the kids. He’s a solitary figure, doing a menial job, just so he can tour, just so he can have the freedom to play gigs whenever they come up. The wind blows as the camera follows him fighting against the wind, the snow of Canada, to deliver the food. And I was like, “wow, this is Mickey Rourke in the Wrestler, but it’s just that more powerful because this is real.” Lips is Rouke’s Ram, an aging “used to be” who is still pursuing the one thing he loves, the one thing he knows how to do, except Ram was someone once, he was at the top of his profession at one point, but Lips and Anvil, well they never made the top. So you can look at it like, “so that means they never fell from grace, they don’t know the pain of losing everything.” But that can also mean, “they never once tasted that glory, never once tasted their efforts payoff.” It’s Shakespearean the tragedy here.
But what makes this film work is that while Anvil’s story is in a lot of ways tragic, they don’t feel that way. These two guys are amazing. There’s just this hope they exude and you can’t help but love them. Like I said before, it doesn’t even matter if you dislike the music, but there’s so much humanity here that in the end you can’t help but like the music because you like them. And that’s the strongest aspect of this movie. It’s incredibly sobering, and yet amazing uplifting and is just one of the funniest movies of the year. There’s just these looks, these quiet moments between Anvil, that are just some of the funniest moments I’ve ever seen. This is real life, and there was no way to script how funny this is.
So yeah I give this my highest recommend. “Bring your lunch from home because you owe it to yourself and anyone you love to see this film.” All movies touch each of us in different ways, we like a movie, we hate a movie, we cry, we laugh, but how many truly touch our souls. How many truly make us take stock of our lives and want to be better?
When I originally ran down the new movie releases for April 10th last week, Anvil! The Story of Anvil didn’t show up. However, after watching this movie and loving it so much I did some checking, and it is getting a 2 theater release before a major rollout, one in NY and one in LA for this week. So by the time you hear this Anvil! will be out. I don’t know where it is playing in LA, but if you live in NY it’s playing at the wonderful Angelica Film Center on Houston Street. Now I generally never mention what theaters films are playing at because some of our listeners may not live in NY. However, since this is only playing in NY and LA right now, I urge anyone living in NY to check this out. Anvil may never make it with their music, but their passion, their love for the music will always live on.