'It's So Easy and Other Lies': Film Review
Christopher Duddy's documentary/concert film is based on the memoir by Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan.
The current Guns N' Roses reunion provides a natural marketing hook for Christopher Duddy's documentary based on its hard-living bass player Duff McKagan's autobiography. An awkward blend of McKagan reading excerpts from his book during concerts with his band Loaded and standard documentary tropes including archival films and photographs and talking-head commentary, It's So Easy and Other Lies makes for a tedious cinematic experience that will only be appreciated by McKagan's hard-core fans. And even they're likely to come away less than enthusiastic.
On the evidence of his presence here, McKagan seems like a genuinely nice guy, although the selections from his memoir suggest that his prose doesn't exactly rival Keith Richards' Life or Patti Smith's Just Kids. But his story is certainly a heartfelt cautionary tale, concentrating largely (at least in the portions heard here) on his addiction to alcohol and drugs that nearly killed him when, as one commentator vividly describes it, his pancreas "exploded."
While the film understandably touches lightly on McKagan's early life — such as his growing up in Seattle; his initial bands featuring such colorful names as Thankless Dogs; his moving to Los Angeles and meeting Slash — it less explicably glosses over the period about which viewers are likely to be most interested, his Guns N' Roses years. There are a few choice anecdotes, including one about a typical Axl Rose meltdown during a concert when he felt that security wasn't doing its job, but otherwise the information is sketchy at best. And although Slash offers a few brief comments, along with such fellow musicians as Nikki Sixx (whose band Motley Crue gave Guns N' Roses their big break by booking them as their tour opener) and Pearl Jam's Mike McCready, Rose is conspicuously absent. Oddly, more screen time is spent on McKagan's other band, the supergroup Velvet Revolver, than on the one that made his fortune.
McKagan's story ultimately feels all too familiar, including his redemption by quitting the bottle (although he did relapse briefly with pills); his newfound passion for physical fitness; and his happy third marriage to a supermodel, Susan Holmes, aptly dubbed "The Body," with whom he has two daughters.
The filmmaker occasionally attempts to liven up the static proceedings with all too literal animated segments — when McKagan makes the comment, "It took off like a jet," a cartoon airliner is dutifully shown — to little effect. And the noodling musical performances are not much better, such as when McKagan warbles "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," Bob Dylan's song famously covered by his former band. As a singer, it turns out, he's a great bassist.
Distributor: XLrator Media
Production company: Scatena & Rosner Films
Director: Christopher Duddy
Screenwriters: Christopher Duddy, Duff McKagan
Producers: Christopher Duddy, Steven G. Kaplan, Duff McKagan, Daniel Zirilli
Executive producers: Juan Gallego, Howard Holmes, Joe Mundo, Gato Scatena, Hans Stangl, Birgit Stein, Kati Thomson
Director of photography: Ryan Purcell
Editor: Keith Megna
Not rated, 84 minutes