Bob Marley comes into focus in epic and complex doc.
MARLEY (Kevin Macdonald). 145 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (May 18). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNNN
You might compare Kevin Macdonald's comprehensive and authoritative doc about Bob Marley to a massive joint - and not just because there's an obscene amount of ganja onscreen. Share it with a group while grooving to its tunes and everyone will come away with a different kind of high.
Marley aficionados will be astonished by the depth and breadth of the documentary, which portrays the musician known as "Tuff Gong" as both a fallible man and an untouchable legend. Meanwhile, those who only know his most popular tunes, like Jammin and One Love, will walk away enlightened about the music and its roots.
Macdonald (The Last King Of Scotland) details Marley's life, from his childhood as the rejected son of a 50-year-old British naval officer to the reggae icon he became, whose lyrics are cited by every flannel-shirt-wearing hippie. In between, we learn about his Rastafarian influences, his life-threatening bouts with politics and his way with the ladies. (He fathered 11 children with seven women.)
Marley makes efficient use of limited footage and fills in the gaps with interviews with those who knew the man intimately. Candid talking heads include Marley's wife, children, bandmates like Bunny Wailer and even one of his many mistresses, Toronto-born Cindy Breakspeare, whose son Damian "Junior Gong" Marley recently collaborated on the Distant Relatives album with Nas.
Despite its epic running time (entirely justified by its subject's complexity and influence), the film never lags. After all, Marley wasn't the kind of guy you can take in with just a few tokes.