It Might Get Loud directed by Davis Guggenheim (Thomas Tull productions and Sony Pictures Classics, NR, 98 minutes)
Starring Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White
Everyone loves electric guitar. Beyond its pleasant aesthetic and varying tonal qualities lies an iconic cultural status. From the metal-head who spends more time shredding in Guitar Center than in the classroom to the almost universal urge to play guitar in the air when a real guitar does not suffice, guitar wins. I am unaware of the competition guitar entered but it totally won.
It Might Get Loud caters to our dreams and desires. While our rock star fantasies died before inception through Junior High and High School bands or garage rock with friends, the movie documents the rise past these beginning stages by Jimmy Page, the Edge, and Jack White. We visit early practices spaces with each guitarist. We get to hear the records that influenced these guitarists to continue their craft.
With gorgeous cinematography, each guitarist explains the methods by which he creates his music. We see Jimmy Page leaning on his overdrive, the Edge explaining his use of delay, and Jack White jamming with his son. The documentary is at its best when the guitarists reminisce on foundational stories of their careers. Jimmy Page discusses how Led Zeppelin recorded IV as he walks through Headley Grange – the house where the band practiced and recorded many songs. The Edge describes the connection he found with a Gibson Explorer as he searched for his first guitar purchase. And Jack White vividly explains how being a musician alienated him from his peers in his Detroit neighborhood but also inspired him to continually play more music.
Despite the many beautiful portions of the movie, It Might Get Loud has many faults holding it down from being an excellent film. Like a loud and lazy guitar solo, the movie has little structure and no direction. Too often the guitarists wax poetically about what it means to play guitar without ever pulling their grand metaphors back to reality. When the three guitarists meet in a big warehouse to talk about guitar playing techniques and jam Led Zeppelin, U2, and White Stripes songs, the interactions seem awkward and forced.
Ultimately, I would liken It Might Be Loud to an intermediate guitarist playing guitar for an hour and a half. If that thought annoys you, this movie is not for you. Conversely, if you can handle such mindless compositions, you may walk away with an appreciation for these guitarists who have made a living doing the very thing about which most can only dream.