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  • Oasis: Supersonic | Review

    By | October 26, 2016


    Director: Mat Whitecross

    Starring: Paul Arthurs, Christine Biller, Mark Coyle, Liam Gallagher, Noel Gallagher, Paul Gallagher, Peggy Gallagher

    Full confession: prior to screening Oasis: Supersonic, to the best of my knowledge, I knew one Oasis song, that being “Wonderwall.” I’m sure I’ve heard other songs by them at some point but I couldn’t guarantee it. I knew they were a British rock band and I knew there were two brothers at the heart of the band, Liam and Noel Gallagher, and I had some vague notion that some people had strong feelings along the lines of “Oasis good, Blur bad” or something like that. Maybe vice versa? And I seemed to remember that maybe one or both brothers were polarizing figures, pretentious bad boys of rock (unless, of course, you agree with their assessment that they’re the greatest rock band in the world).

    After viewing Mat Whitecross’ documentary on the band, I feel like I know a little more about the band but not nearly as much as I would have hoped. I now can say I’ve heard probably ten Oasis songs or more but I don’t think any of them stuck in my head enough that I could tell you anything about them. Nor was there really ever any discussion about the songs or any stories behind them or anything about the songwriting process. What you get during the film’s two hours of interviews and endless archival footage is a bare bones history of the band and what made them tick and a whole lot of Noel’s and Liam’s self-aggrandizement, admittedly clever and self-aware at times.

    It should come as no surprise then, to hear that the brothers served as executive producers on the film. Generally what that means is that the director gets a lot more access and a lot less freedom to be critical. I feel like that’s only partially true in this film’s case because of the Gallagher brothers’ well established contentious relationship. As one is busy building himself and Oasis up, he’s usually also busy tearing his brother down. And, of course, when you’re interested in making sure everyone knows what a badass rock and roll outfit you were in charge of, stories of drugs, debauchery and criminal behavior are more a badge of honor than a source of embarrassment.

    What I learned is that the Gallaghers seem to have a pretty typical “let’s start a rock band” story involving socially awkward guys who loved music and loved pot and wound up spending endless hours obsessing over both. Of course, most rock bands don’t go on to achieve the success and notoriety of Oasis. So what made them so special? After watching the film, I couldn’t really tell you. It’s clear that both brothers have the necessary drive and chips on their shoulders. As we learn, they had an abusive father who wound up being cut out of their life (also a pretty common story among successful artists) and an emotionally supportive mother. Clearly, their response to their childhood suffering was to become tough and emotionally resilient.

    I have no idea what has become of Oasis over the last decade, if they’re broken up or reunited or what and this film didn’t tell me. Instead, its focus is on the band’s formation and quick rise to mega-fame, ending the story with their massive 1996 Knebworth Park shows. The film gives the sense that that was the end of the road for the band but for someone like me, who’s never paid attention, I’m left guessing about that. And even after watching the film, I’m not really interested enough to get online and find out for myself.

    That being said, I don’t see this film as a failure. In fact, I feel pretty confident that if you’re a fan of the band, you’ll love this documentary. For the rest of us, a lot of it probably comes down to how much pleasure we might take in listening to the Gallagher brothers endless self-aggrandizing. There’s not a lot of drama or tension to be felt in the film. You find out they fired a drummer, who might or might not have been up for the job but who evidently never fully fit in, and he later sued to get a piece of their huge pie (I couldn’t tell you from watching the film how that lawsuit turned out, though). Their bass player dropped out of the band at one point for nervous exhaustion, which he’s made fun of for, before rejoining. Noel suddenly quit the band at one point during a visit to the States, sneaking off to San Francisco to join a woman he’d met before, but is soon back in the fold. There are lot of stories of drug abuse and brotherly battles and there’s a particularly painful moment that pretty well captures typical Gallagher behavior when they unnecessarily and meanly mock Brit Awards presenter Michael Hutchence of INXS. But by the end, I’m still not sure why I should care or what Oasis has contributed to rock and roll history. Numerous times, they point out that none of the press or hoopla or stories will matter in time but the music they’ve recorded will prevail. Maybe or maybe not. I couldn’t tell you.

    Rating: 7/10

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