Director: Mat Whitecross
MPAA Rating: (for pervasive language and some drug material)
Running Time: 2:02
Release Date: 10/26/16
Review by Mark Dujsik | October 25, 2016
It's difficult to determine for whom Oasis: Supersonic, a behind-the-scenes documentary about the English rock band Oasis, was made. It's definitely not for those who are unfamiliar with the band, since there are better ways to be introduced to the music and the band's story is going to seem pretty familiar to anyone who knows the story of any artist who finds success. It's not quite for those who have a passing knowledge of the band and/or their music, because the behind-the-scenes details are neither surprising nor expanded upon in any significant way. It's not really for the fans, either. They already know this story and, likely, much more of it than what director Mat Whitecross provides.
If the movie is for anyone, it's for brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher, who, respectively, served as the band's front man and songwriter until the latter quit the band in 2009, effectively ending its run. The movie ends in 1996, with a pair of sold-out shows on the grounds of Knebworth House that had an audience of 125,000 people each night. Yes, the band was a pretty big thing back then, and this movie is a recap of its glory days. As the disembodied voice of one interview subject puts it, the documentary is essentially "the story of the rise and rise of Oasis."
During the end credits, it is of little surprise to learn that the brothers served as executive producers on the movie, and it's possibly even less of a surprise to see that their credits are separate from each other. Their relationship is a contentious one, to say the least, and that's even coming from the evidence within a movie that tries to put them in the most positive light possible.
That's not to say that the two Gallagher brothers come across as saints here, but it is to say that Whitecross is more than happy to take any excuse for specific actions, repeated behaviors, and ingrained attitudes at face value. Anything that is too difficult or too potentially damning—in other words, the details that actually might be illuminating—is either brushed aside or dismissed outright.
The trajectory of the movie's narrative—told through concert footage, photos, and interviews at the time and in the current day—is fairly routine. We learn a bit about the brothers' upbringing, with at least one voice noting that it is strange that two men who essentially had the same childhood could end up being so different from each other. Liam has a raging ego. Noel is introverted. Liam started a band, hoping to become famous. Noel was more than happy working behind the scenes with another band, but he couldn't turn down the younger brother's offer to join his band.
In between the usual narrative that goes through the process of the band's quick rise to prominence (It's only a matter of three years between signing on with a record label and having that huge concert), we get the similarly usual stories of behind-the-scenes shenanigans—destroyed hotel rooms, drinking, drugs, some sex, and a bit more violence than one might anticipate. Noel cares about the music. Liam is more concerned with the benefits of being famous. In contemporary interviews at the time of the band's existence, the younger brother declares the band to be the best one in the world, while the elder brother sits in silence next to him. Both agree and say often that the fans are really, truly the best.
The movie itself seems to exist in order to fulfill both brothers' individual viewpoints on what Oasis meant. The music was popular. For Noel, that means it was great, and for Liam, it means that he was instrumental in the existence of a great band. There was, of course tension (The story of the band's rise includes two band members quitting for an obvious reason, even if his—sorry, its—name is danced around with professional diplomacy), but that, in everyone's telling, is to be expected from a group of guys who had never before tasted fame. The same goes for the off-stage antics, because, as Liam tells it, such a chance only comes once to a few. It would be a waste not to take advantage of it.
The conflict between the brothers seems to reaching a boiling point just before movie's endpoint (When Noel decides to sing a few songs on stage, a camera at a concert catches the younger brother pouting in the wings). The same goes for the brothers' childhood, which partially was spent with an abusive—by all accounts (including the brothers, their mother Peggie, and a third brother Paul) except his own—father. In that regard, we learn one key detail—that Noel received abuse, while Liam only witnessed it. The topic, like every uncomfortable or troubling one here, is quickly bypassed.
No attempt to solidify a legend is going to dare to touch these matters, and Oasis: Supersonic is building a legend. It comes across as a highlight reel, commented upon by participants who aren't ready or willing to look at themselves or each other in a critical light.
Copyright © 2016 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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