Day Twelve: Foo Fighters: Back and Forth (MotM 2020)

back and forth cover

If you were to ask me what my favorite band was a decade ago, I would reply, “The Foo Fighters” without hesitation. If you were to ask me what my favorite band is now, I would reply, “The Foo Fighters” with a little hesitation. In the past, I was comfortable with what I knew, and what I knew were bands like the Foo Fighters, Linkin Park, Rise Against, Queen; among others. It took time for me to look past the mainstream and peer into the little crevices that make up the musical medium, and since then I’ve realized that the Foo Fighters are… lacking in various departments. Even so, when I want to indulge in pure passion and adrenaline-filled loudness, they’re typically my band of choice, whether by reason of nostalgia or a genuine appreciation for their craft.

Another fun tidbit I found out about is people’s disdain for Dave Grohl, frontman for the Foo Fighters and former drummer for Nirvana. This was around the time I watched Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, nearly a year ago. I couldn’t quite understand it… something wrong with Dave Grohl? He seems like such a genuine, cool, goofy dude. Re-watching this documentary after close to a decade, I realized two things: I can understand why people don’t like him, and that I shilled this band pretty fucking hard, as evidenced by my 9/10 rating for this at the time.

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You’ll see this face a lot.

Grohl has done some pretty shitty things during his time with the Foo’s. Re-doing drum parts on an entire album because he was unsatisfied with the actual drummer’s performance—and not even telling him; kicking out a member of the band for reasons that can be summed up with “they didn’t gel well”—choosing to do so over the phone; and going on tour with another band because he “felt like it,” less than a year after a bandmate almost died of a drug overdose and the band was in a stagnant place. Combine this with the rather embellished way he talks about his work and its supposed place in rock history, you can perceive this as someone with a fiery ego. With all that came before, that’s hard to argue, although I still see him as more of a passionate person than anything.

Now, as for the documentary itself, its effectiveness as a character piece is fairly good, though the history aspect is done superbly. If I were to recommend this as an actual film that general audiences could enjoy, the people most apt to appreciating it would be fans of the Foo Fighters themselves. That’s how the documentary structures itself, as a winding history of the band’s formation, with a little touch on Dave’s own life, as he is the frontman and founder. To others who have no knowledge of the band, Grohl, or rock music in general, likely would find much here.

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This image is pretty haunting with context.

This isn’t to say the history of the band isn’t interesting on its own. Much of the drama that Grohl’s faced makes an interesting concoction of human tension and intrigue directly attributed to the band’s earlier years (ironically when many felt their music was at its best). After a certain point, though, the documentary seems resigned to getting to the present (as of the film’s release, 2011). Their For Your Honor and Echoes, Silence, Patience, & Grace albums have hardly any context behind them other than Grohl saying, “Hey, I really like beautiful acoustic stuff.” Where the first four albums of the band’s history had just over an hour of history and things to talk about that were put into them, these two barely covered fifteen minutes.

What might be the weakest part of the documentary is the aforementioned “present.” It goes from footage of the band members sitting and discussing details of their history to intimate footage of Grohl and co. hanging out at his house with their families and working on the Wasting Light album. Truthfully, it feels like a completely different movie at that point, like a snippet of something that would be better suited as a behind-the-scenes documentary of the making of Wasting Light. Only here, there’s very little detail at all, except some neat shots of an engineer preparing tape and each band member working through suggestions of changes to the songs they’re recording for. It loses steam right near the end, which has it feel more like a commercial for the latest album, and it probably is.

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Everyone in attendance went home and purchased every Foo Fighters album available.

For me, as a Foo Fighter enthusiast since ’06 or ’07, this is comfort food. I can still name each member of the band, what their role is, and how long they’ve been there; have been able to for many years. Even if I don’t think the quality of the documentary is as solid as it could be, the subject of Grohl, Smear, Stahl, Goldsmith, Mendel, Hawkins, Shiflett, and Jaffee will likely forever be interesting to me. And even if I begin to sour on the music they eventually put out (their first two albums are far better than anything else they’ve created, especially recently), they’ll always be there in my musically-inclined heart as among the first rock bands I really got into.

I’m sorry, this is almost like an amalgamation of my history with the band, my history with this documentary, my history with other documentaries, dissecting why Dave Grohl’s an asshole, and a little bit about why the film is good or bad. If nothing else, leave with this: You will enjoy this as a fan of the band. You may enjoy this if you aren’t necessarily a fan of the band, but are interested in music history. You probably won’t enjoy this if you don’t care about anything it concerns. Thanks, all. Stay safe!

Final Score: 6.5/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Thank you for your time. Have a great day.

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