Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (12)
Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (12)
Director: Frank Marshall
Cast: Barry, Maurice & Robin Gibb, Andy Gibb, Vince Lawrence, Noel Gallagher, Chris Martin, Justin Timberlake, Eric Clapton, Mark Ronson
Synopsis: Brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb find early fame in the 1960s and go on to write over 1,000 songs, including 20 No. 1 hits. This film follows the group’s meteoric rise as they navigate the complexities of working so intimately alongside family.
The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart is directed by acclaimed filmmaker Frank Marshall, founder of Amblin Entertainment in 1991 in collaboration with his wife, Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg. He was recipient of the Irving G. Thalberg award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2018. Known mainly as producer of a ton of Amblin and Spielberg blockbusters [Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)The Sixth Sense (1999), Jurassic World (2015), Seabiscuit (2003), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)], his occasional forays into feature film directing are less well known. With this film he turns his hand to documentary, to chronicle the triumphs and hurdles of brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb, otherwise known as the Bee Gees.
This is the first ever feature documentary on the Bee Gees, authorised by Barry Gibb and the families of Robin and Maurice Gibb. The film sets out to discover why their music has been so enduring and persuasive for over half a century. It covers the tale of the Bee Gees from their early days as a harmonising Australian rock band – a story of staggering achievement, loss and sorrow, but also an exploration of the underlying creativity behind this enduring phenomenon. The Bee Gees was a creative partnership between blood siblings. From the ages of 6 (the twins, Maurice and Robin) and 9 (Barry), the Gibbs started improvising harmonies and writing musical motifs without any formal training or indeed any awareness of what they were actually doing. It just came naturally. This is the story of three brothers chasing an emotion they felt as kids, the joy of singing together and creating songs from that unique sound.
The iconic trio, who found early fame in the Sixties, went on to write over 1,000 songs, including twenty number one hits throughout their celebrated career. They became the definitive ‘Kings of Disco’ with over 220 million records sold worldwide, making them the third biggest band in Billboard history.
The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart includes never before seen footage and interviews with music icons like Vince Lawrence, Chris Martin, Justin Timberlake, Eric Clapton and Noel Gallagher (who makes interesting points on the internal dynamic of family-as-bandmates.)
The documentary is informative, entertaining, and heart wrenching in turn as Director/Producer Marshall reveals the band’s soul and the power dynamic that propelled the Bee Gees to superstardom.
It opens with Barry Gibb reflecting: “I am beginning to recognize the fact that nothing is true. It’s all down to perception.”
Speaking in 2019 from his home in Miami, the eldest Gibb brother – now in his early 70s – makes the point that his memories only partially reflect the Bee Gees’ complete experience. His bandmates, younger twin brothers Robin and Maurice, would have a different memory, but unfortunately, they are no longer here to tell it; Maurice died in 2003 following complications from surgery and Robin died in 2012 of cancer.
This exploration of the history of the Bee Gees features revealing interviews with elder brother Barry Gibb, and archival interviews with his late twin brothers Robin and Maurice.
It is an unavoidably bittersweet story of the Manchester born, Australian-raised music act whose second – or even third – coming in the mid-70s resulted in a pop-culture phenomenon not seen since the heyday of the Beatles just a decade earlier. With Maurice and Robin – and younger brother Andy – all gone, Barry Gibb is the last Bee Gee standing. He appears a melancholic, meditative figure but is happy to relive past glories while also expressing regret for past brotherly discord and the loss of their camaraderie.
“There’s fame and there’s ultra-fame – it can destroy you”, he comments.
Marshall runs through the Bee Gees’ career, with its ups and downs. There is footage of their in-studio activity, composing and vocalising, including the famous ‘accidental’ discovery of Barry’s falsetto skills during the recording of the 1975 album Main Course.
The film also deals with dance culture, and the mainstream popularity of disco in late 1977 and ’78, with the significance of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack as a culturally dominating force – and of course the wide range of beards and big hair over the years is charted. But in a telling segment it features the unpleasant events of the infamous Disco Demolition Night, a Major League Baseball (MLB) promotion on Thursday, July 12, 1979, at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois, that ended in a riot. At the climax of the event, a crate filled with disco records was blown up on the field – a disturbing example of overt racism and homophobia provoked by some music.
An interesting, comprehensive, worthwhile musical profile of a pop music phenomenon, which nevertheless ends with the bittersweet summation of Barry Gibb, on the loss of his brothers: ”I’d rather have them all back and no hits at all.”
On Sky Documentaries and available on DVD and digital download.
Images courtesy of Universal Pictures.