Estelle: “You just seem older.”
Joe: “That’s life on the road for you.”
Estelle: “Joe the grisly bear.”
When greeted with an invitation to watch (and subsequently review) this film, I had two options — to do my research (on the film, not the band) or dive deep? I chose the latter as the risk seemed too tempting to pass up.
In an article I’ve read about On The Road, a feature film on North London rock band Wolf Alice, there was much talk about method acting, actors integrating into the real crew — which reminds me, many moments while watching this film I questioned, is this real?
There were many scenes that obviously required retakes though as a film lover, succumbing to irrational beliefs wasn’t the toughest job in that moment.
You know it’s romanticised, so why not play along with that daydream?
In popular music documentaries such as Kill Your Idols, it became apparent that punk rockers like Karen O played characters while on stage. Typically, these ‘behind the scenes’ featured a more authentic life that musicians lead beyond a performance. One would also expect Hulu to treat Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl similarly.
However, On The Road seemed to take on the opposite direction. It follows Estelle, the new management rep.
Instead of zooming in on Wolf Alice, the film sees the tour as a backdrop to a love affair.
Shying away from letting ‘real life’ play out on the screen, the documentary seems to purposefully fit itself into the ideal modern rock star scenario — worn out band members on tour, backstage antics, new camaraderie with initial distrust, sex. Everything but drugs, the over-represented element of rock and roll.
The humdrum, albeit real, felt glamorised when combined with filter-consistent scenes and way too appropriate cutaways.
It did not help that the experience was lived in one of Singapore’s oldest cinema theatres, now renamed The Projector — which, in my opinion, could only elevate the make-believe that director Michael Winterbottom had intended.
A semi biographical, semi fiction narrative, On The Road presents tour life with coming of age tendencies. The end of this film leaves one wondering, what really goes on behind Wolf Alice’s tours?
However, philosophers and many art practitioners would agree that there is no need to insist on the truth, given that our eyes see what we dream up.
On The Road at The Projector was presented by Laneway Festival Singapore.