Film Review: It's So Easy and Other LiesGuns N’ Roses rocker’s inane babbling does little to enhance this tedious doc.
It’s not even remotely a coincidence that this new documentary based on Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan’s memoir is rearing its ugly head just as that band is ready to head on the road for a summer reunion tour. Unfortunately, getting such a one-sided look at one player in the mid-’80s L.A. rock scene does little to justify the existence of this strange film.
McKagan began as a musician in Seattle, then moved down to L.A. to join the burgeoning music scene there during the ’80s, teaming with Slash, Axl Rose and others to create a rock band that made huge waves in a music scene diluted by far more commercial British New Wave and hair-metal bands.
Directed by Christopher Duddy, It’s So Easy and Other Lies is more than just a typical doc, as it captures McKagan’s one-night-only “Unplugged” concert where he reads bits from his book with GNR music playing in the background, some of his early stories recreated with animation.
Slash is the most prominent of McKagan’s bandmates to appear within the steady stream of friends and family trying to convince us how inspirational his story is, but none of that is quite as bad as listening to McKagan himself.
McKagan isn’t a particularly talented writer, with the charisma of a surfer and the elocution to match, his profuse use of the F-word doing very little to elevate him above the status of a mindless rocker. Like a deranged beat poet, he mumbles his way through excerpts from his book, getting laughs from an audience packed with fans clearly eating up every word he says. It isn’t particularly entertaining and his story is rarely as interesting as the music going on behind him.
To Duddy’s credit as a filmmaker, he does the best he can with what he’s given to work with—cutting between photos from Duff’s past and close-ups of the musicians jamming behind him—but the movie never rises above being a talking-heads doc with McKagan reflecting on his days as a rocker over a bed of live music that doesn’t give the viewer enough room to breathe.
He does talk at length about his drug usage and runs through some of the many Seattle musicians who died from overdoses, but part of it almost seems to be glorifying that lifestyle. The film even has a few words from “Duff’s doctor,” but things get even weirder when we’re introduced to his martial-arts trainer Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, a “troubleshooter” brought in to save Duff’s life. Just as you start wondering where the film might be going, it shifts gears once again to introduce Duff’s third wife, a supermodel with whom he starts a family.
Duff does show a few moments of remorse, most notably when he realizes his problems with addiction have affected his relationship with his Parkinson’s-stricken mother, but otherwise the film is filled with so much of the ego and bluster you’d expect from an L.A. rocker, it’s hard to empathize, let alone sympathize.
There are countless docs about far more talented musicians and songwriters out there, and as much as It’s So Easy and Other Lies tries hard to do something different from other music docs, An Inconvenient Truth this is not.
McKagan is an insufferable subject and after 80 minutes listening to him talk about himself—interspersed with others talking about him—the movie becomes just as insufferable. It’s hard to think anyone who isn’t already a diehard Guns N’ Roses fan will care even the slightest iota about this movie.
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