'Liam Gallagher: As It Was': Film Review
Gavin Fitzgerald and Charlie Lightening's documentary chronicles the personal and professional travails of the former Oasis frontman after the band broke up.
Liam Gallagher is compellingly watchable in the new documentary about his post-Oasis life and career. Whether he's being profanely funny or revealing surprising vulnerability, the singer has an electrifying presence and easily grabs your attention. Unfortunately, Gavin Fitzgerald and Charlie Lightening's Liam Gallagher: As It Was doesn't really do him justice. Striving to be an inspirational story about personal and professional redemption, the film mainly comes across as a self-aggrandizing promotional project that the famously arrogant pop star would have once sneered at. (You won't be surprised to learn that it's being released theatrically just before the release of his new solo album.) Even Gallagher's fans might find this cinematic portrait unnecessary after 2016's superior documentary Oasis: Supersonic.
The film begins, fittingly enough, with footage from the 2009 Paris concert that was abruptly canceled after Liam and his songwriter brother, Noel, had a major fight in their dressing room just before they were supposed to go onstage. Noel quit the band the next day, and Liam hasn't seen or talked to him in the 10 years since. Or at least he thinks he hasn't.
"The geezer wears many masks," Liam says about his older sibling. "He probably walks past me every day."
That's but one example of the singer's sardonic humor, which is on ample display throughout the film. He certainly needed it after his mega-selling band imploded. He tried to repeat its success with Beady Eye, which featured three other former Oasis members. But while it released two reasonably well-selling albums, the group never truly caught on, and it disbanded in 2014. Meanwhile, his brother was achieving success with his new project, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.
"No band, no songs, no niche," Liam bitterly complains about his floundering musical career.
With the end of his second marriage, to Nicole Appleton, his personal life was no less adrift. The documentary includes footage of him on vacation shortly after the divorce, clearly attempting to drink his woes away. The tabloids had a field day exploiting his troubles, and he didn't help matters with his incessant, uncensored tweeting.
But as the film eventually goes on to illustrate in saccharine fashion, he eventually put his professional and personal lives back on track. His 2017 solo album, As You Were, garnered critical raves and debuted at the top of the British charts. He began a relationship with his former assistant Debbie Gwyther, who became his manager and whom he credits for his newfound contentment and renewed career success.
"I found my place in life, and it's in front of that microphone stand," Liam exults, in a manner more befitting an inspirational speaker than a bad-boy rock star. He's not the only figure in the documentary who constantly talks about his current happiness. Among those commenting on his positivity are eldest brother Paul, his mother, his two teenage sons and Gwyther, none of whom could be described as being objective.
We also see Liam engaging in such healthful pursuits as jogging (even he seems bemused that he's doing it), and basking in the cheers of audiences at such events as the One Love Manchester benefit concert.
The hurt and bitterness over the rift with his sibling remains, however. Several of those close to him comment in the film that he misses his brother terribly, although Liam himself won't deign to admit it. "I don't need that fucker!" he says defiantly about Noel. "I don't need his help!" It's clear that Oasis fans can give up hope of the band reuniting anytime soon. And yet, perversely, it's in these moments of darkness that the documentary feels most genuine.
Production companies: Lorten Entertainment, Firepit, Lightening Films, Toughnut Films
Distributor: Screen Media Films
Directors: Gavin Fitzgerald, Charlie Lightening
Producers: Steven Lappin
Executive producers: Julian Bird, Joel Kennedy, Tim Davenport
Directors of photography: Dan Lightening, Jj Rolfe, Jaimie Gramston, David Meadows
Editor: Nick J. Webb