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Heaven Adores You (2014)
Raises many questions, but gives few answers and little insight
I did learn that Elliott grew up in Dallas, but apart from that, I learned very little. It was as if everybody involved in making this were committed to being intentionally vague and uninformative.
Is there any explanation for why or how he left Dallas for Portland as a kid? No, nothing apart from his sister saying he didn't get along with his dad. His Portland girlfriend says that she thought the song he wrote for her was sweet, but follows with a statement suggesting its delivery was hurtful, but no explanation as to how or why. Off to New York. All is going great. The Oscar nomination. XO. Then without any explanation as to why, it's revealed that he was making distressing phone calls at night from the road, and an email hinting at suicidal thinking, leading to an "intervention" by friends and handlers... with zero explanation as to what was going on. Then off to LA. Figure 8. Big on the scene. A couple of people mention drugs becoming a problem, then that he knew when to stop. His manager quit, saying he'd gotten too mean. The guy who'd shot videos for Elliott for years says he suddenly realized that the person everyone loved wasn't there anymore. No explanations, no details, only vague nondescript hints at a darkness. No mention of his relationships in LA.
It's as if there is a gag order placed on everyone involved in this film, preventing anyone from revealing what was going on in Elliott's life that would make a scratch below the surface. There are many problems and stories hinted at throughout the duration of the doc, raising questions that are then dodged, left unanswered. This doc stumbles along in this way with far too many stretches of pseudo-artistic shots of building, trains, Portland neighborhoods, houses, bridges and over-passes, and lazy views from inside a moving car. The music that accompanies these interludes is good. Still, as a doc, there is very little actual substantive content, and there seems to be no interest in providing any insight into either Elliot's life or music that isn't already obvious. I watched the doc in its entirety twice in one day, and I know very little more about the life and music of Elliott Smith now than I did before watching it.
This doc looks like a home movie, shot for only a small company of friends and associates, with restraints on anything that might be considered personal or negative. Sadly it lacks the restraints imposed by the old 8mm film once used for home movies. This camera can run and run and never run out of film, chewing up a great deal of repetitive scenery.
I hope a real documentary is made, one that answers the questions this one only hints at and skirts by, one that isn't afraid to dig in and get real, like Smith did with his music. I don't see the point in only stating the obvious, Elliott Smith was someone special and wasn't always sad or biographical, and only touching his story like a stone skipping across deep waters, hinting at much more but revealing very little. This attempt to NOT be like a VH1 expose went too far in the other direction, and ends up being nothing more than a tight-lipped tribute to Elliott's talents, and to Portland. The subject was and is ripe for something outstanding and illuminating. This was only a wisp of smoke.