Can't Stand Losing You: Film Review

Andy Summers The Police P
Self-involved but engaging doc walks fans through The Police's heyday and their 2007 reunion.

Andy Grieve's documentary gives an inside look at The Police guitarist Andy Summers, from playing jazz clubs at 16 to superstardom.

NEW YORK — Focusing on a single perspective within a band famous for its three strong personalities, Can't Stand Losing You finds a rocker who had his cake and ate it too -- guitarist Andy Summers, who behaved like a rock-and-roll brat while The Police were on top and then reunited with his estranged wife after the band imploded. Of interest to Police fans but hardly a rock-doc for the ages, it's best suited to small screens.

Based on One Train Later, the memoir Summers released in 2006, the film weaves Summers's chronological recollections (as presented by director Andy Grieve) with material shot by Lauren Lazin during the band's 2007-2008 comeback tour. It doesn't attempt to be the definitive biography of the band, instead charting the guitarist's early years (playing jazz clubs at 16, going psychedelic, moving to L.A. and joining Eric Burdon's reformed Animals in the late '60s) before telling how he replaced Henry Padovani in what would become The Police.

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Summers recalls being spat on in the first shows he played with bandmates Sting and Stewart Copeland (par for the course on the punk scene) and almost quitting before, thanks to some bleached hair and a little composition called "Roxanne," the trio found an identity that would carry them quickly out of punk clubs. Walking us through the timeline of their sudden success, Summers offers a few colorful anecdotes (including the TV appearance that almost didn't happen, after a can of hairspray exploded in Sting's face) while liberally foreshadowing the breakup of his marriage.

Vintage TV interviews show three bandmates who could hardly have expected to survive a single long tour, much less record five albums and become one of the defining acts of the MTV era. Resentment of the media's attention to Sting is present from the start; even before the third album, the singer is describing the band as "a platform" to launch solo careers.

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While the public got to know the (in his words) prickish side of Andy Summers, the guitarist tried to stay sane by taking photos on the road. We see lots of these black-and-white images, many of which display a wit and panache not found in the rest of Can't Stand Losing You. This, we see, is where the former rock star finds creative affirmation now that Sting has dashed hopes of new Police records or further tours. Exhibiting these photos may be more about milking bygone fame than anything else, but it's a lot healthier than walking into a karaoke bar (as we watch him do here) to buttonhole strangers singing "Every Breath You Take" and point out that you used to be in that band.


Production Companies: Saturn, Public Road, Yari Film Group

Directors: Lauren Lazin, Andy Grieve

Screenwriter: Andy Summers

Producers: Nicolas Cage, Norman Golightly, Brett Morgen, Bob Yari

Executive producers: Andy Summers, William J. Immerman

Director of photography: Tom Hurwitz

Music: Andy Summers

Editor: Andy Grieve

No rating, 82 minutes