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Shut Up and Play the Hits: Sundance Review

The Bottom Line

Doc about LCD Soundsystem's final show is equally concerned with frontman James Murphy's first day of retirement

 

Venue

Sundance Film Festival, Park City at Midnight

Directors

Dylan Southern, Will Lovelace

LCD Soundsystem’s die-hard fanbase will appreciate this concert documentary, but few others are likely to think it demands big-screen viewing.

PARK CITY — With a Bittersweetness Quotient high enough you'd think it was eulogizing Camelot instead of a rock band with three LPs to its name, Shut Up and Play the Hits turns the last gig of LCD Soundsystem into a solemn ceremony that only occasionally suggests you might like to dance in your seat. Members of the group's die-hard fanbase will appreciate it, and middle-aged hipsters will nod knowingly, but few will find it the kind of concert film that demands big-screen viewing.

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Telegraphing its "the party's over" vibe, the movie starts with long shots of post-show cleanup, then cuts to LCD frontman James Murphy the next morning -- waking up in a tuxedo shirt after, one guesses, having got up to let filmmakers into his apartment. Directors Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace spend the film cutting between day-after chores and the night before, when a sold-out crowd filled Madison Square Garden for the group's last concert. Occasionally they cut to a week prior, when Murphy sat for an interview with Chuck Klosterman.

The pop-culture scribe's questions make him sound as dopey as a high-school cub reporter, but Murphy's thoughtful answers are the meat of Shut Up's offstage scenes, even if fans already know most of this stuff. Murphy talks of the band's quasi-accidental beginnings and his reasons for quitting; he discusses the tendency of pop music to make performers seem otherworldly, like heroes fans could never be like. And then Murphy takes the stage and, bless him, looks exactly like his fans would, if they were portly unshaven 41-year-olds wearing expensive suits.

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The movie's title notwithstanding, we do not see the band's hits "Drunk Girls" or "Daft Punk is Playing at My House." We do get cameos from Arcade Fire and Reggie Watts, though, along with a solid dose of LCD's signature dance-rock sound, which onstage requires a battery of live percussionists and a wide variety of synthesizers.

While Murphy and his fellow musicians seem fond of each other here, Murphy's the only one who matters to the filmmakers; band manager Keith Wood gets more lines onscreen than all of them combined. Perhaps that's fitting for a documentary so concerned with wrapping up unfinished business, saying goodbye to a storehouse full of used stage equipment, and making sure there's enough coffee on hand to ward off post-show hangovers.