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Shut Up & Sing Review

Published October 29, 2006 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of The Weinstein Company.
Shut Up & Sing Shut Up & Sing
Shut Up & Sing is the most important movie of the year. No movie I can remember has so pinpointed the hypocrisy and immaturity of our country, how people want to say whatever they want but not hear what they don’t like, or just complain about anything that’s not exactly the way they like it. Yet it’s not preachy. It’s just a document of something that happened and it becomes emotional, funny, scary and powerful.

Shut Up & Sing Review

In 2003, right before the U.S. invaded Iraq, the Dixie Chicks gave a concert in London. While talking to the audience, lead singer Natalie Maines made a political comment. Maybe you remember it. The film follows the onslaught of public vitriol that the three girls faced with strength and unity, cutting back and forth from the PR spins and death threats to the recording of their new album in 2005.

In the beginning, Shut Up & Sing is just a fascinating study of a controversy. From inside the group’s circle, before anyone knew it was going to blow up, you see how they function, how they hear about the outcry, how they consider responses and how they deal. Their manager seems to court it while their publicist decries such boisterous retaliations as the Entertainment Weekly cover. The girls are so smart in their analysis of the growing situation and their potential responses, nobody who speaks ill of them could possibly look good.

Once you start seeing the 2005 footage, it’s almost like the healing process begins. They’re starting to write again, they’re inspired by this sh*tstorm and it’s not quite making coherent music yet, but it’s getting there. They live their lives and plan a new approach to airplay and touring.

Neither of these sections would really get old, but going back and forth deepens the impact of moments from each. When you see a moment of elevated controversy in 2003, it’s more powerful because you’ve seen how it still resonates with them in 2005. Obviously, scenes in 2005 benefit from the backstory of 2003 incidents. It’s also fun to see what a difference Bush’s approval rating makes.

In both sections, the filmmakers have found the single most idiotic protestors to fail to articulate what kind of a problem the comment really was. Their montage of pundit clips is classic.

But it’s the girls’ sincerity that makes them heroes. Not once do they say anyone else is wrong. They don’t even really say they’re right. They say this is what they think. They stand together as a “we” when they could have made it an “I.” They turn all the hate into something positive and artistic, and now I’ll cry whenever I hear their music

The single most brilliant moment is when Natalie hears a boo in the audience, and says she’ll give any booers 15 seconds to get it out. She counts to three, and do you think you could hear any boo over all the applause she got? The most masterful manipulators could not concoct a scheme so genuine.

Is this documentary biased? Well, it should have a point of view. The filmmakers were lucky enough to be allowed in the Dixie Chicks’ inner circle. Nothing’s made up. Nothing’s left out. They lucked out with the events turning in the Chicks’ favor but they still put everything together so skillfully to make the perfect movie. There may be another story in the lives of the Bush supporters but it wouldn’t have the confidence, the empowerment and the sincerity of Shut Up & Sing. It would just be a bunch of whiners.

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Compiled By (Sources)
Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of The Weinstein Company.

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