Bob and the Monster: Film Review

SXSW - Bob and the Monster - 2011
Ultimately uplifting doc about would-be rock star makes provocative arguments about drug-addiction treatment.

The ultimately uplifting doc about songwriter Bob Forrest -- known today more for TV's "Celebrity Rehab" than the L.A. band, Thelonious Monster, that seemed poised for success in the mid-'80s -- features interviews with the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea, Courtney Love and Dr. Drew.

AUSTIN -- Taking the Behind the Music rise/fall/comeback format to deeper, more soulful places, Keirda Bahruth’s Bob and the Monster begins with a sad tale of blown showbiz opportunity but, for once, uses drug addiction not as human-freakshow fodder but as the starting point for a provocative argument about treatment strategies. Theatrical potential is limited, but the inspirational film holds appeal for small-screen play.

Known today more for TV's Celebrity Rehab than the L.A. band, Thelonious Monster, that seemed poised for success in the mid-'80s, songwriter Bob Forrest was a hero to a rock scene that birthed bigger stars like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Introduced with copious good live footage and interviews with rockers like Flea and Courtney Love, Forrest emerges as a misfit even by SoCal punk standards -- a strangely dressed character who leaned more toward Bukowski and Lenny Bruce than Sid Vicious.

First-time director Bahruth shows just enough of the depths Forrest's heroin addiction reached — through interviews, concert footage of a horrific onstage meltdown and a claymation reenactment of the fix that could have killed him — to establish his bona fides. She also hears from former bandmates and observers about the ego flaws that (though surely drug-amplified) make him even more culpable for killing his fledgling career.

Cut to a few years after rock bottom, and a sober Bob is washing dishes at hipster coffee shop Millie's and writing heartfelt songs to play on acoustic guitar. This would be the hopeful ending of a standard rock-doc, but in Bobthings are just getting interesting.

We hear of Forrest's encounter with a musicians assistance project, founded by an elderly jazz performer to help rehab-averse addicts kick drugs; we watch as Forrest's curiosity leads him beyond this feel-good program and toward the science of addiction. Along the way, we hear from former addicts (like the Chili Peppers' John Frusciante) about how Forrest helped them in ways professionals couldn't.

Happily, Bahruth avoids all mention of the reality TV show Forrest's new calling led him to, though she spends enough time with its host, Dr. Drew, to lend a hard-science perspective validating some of the musician's insights many of which involve harsh critiques of the pharmaceutical industry's influence on drug treatment and the commercialization of addiction.

Venue: South by Southwest Film Festival, Spotlight Premieres section
Production Company: Shaker Films
irector-screenwriter: Keirda Bahruth
Producers: Rick Ballard, Keirda Bahruth, Austin Wilkin
Executive producers: John Battsek, Andrew Ruhemann, Ricky Beck Mahler, Morgan Langley
Director of photography: Keirda Bahruth, Rick Ballard
Music: Josh Klinghoffer
Editor: Joshua Altman
No rating, 86 minutes