'Better Than Something: Jay Reatard': garage rocker's turbulent life
A movie review of "Better Than Something: Jay Reatard," a fascinating and bittersweet documentary about an iconic garage-rock musician who died at the peak of his creative output.
Special to The Seattle Times
'Better Than Something: Jay Reatard,' a documentary directed by Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz. 89 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Grand Illusion, through Thursday.
"Better Than Something: Jay Reatard" is a fascinating and bittersweet documentary about an iconic garage-rock musician who died at the peak of his creative output.
Filmmakers Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz, who coproduced and co-
directed the movie, were able to capture a week's worth of extremely candid interview footage of Reatard shot just nine months before his death from a drug and alcohol overdose in 2010.
Reatard, born Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr., dropped out of school at the age of 15 to pursue his dream of making music. The wildly prolific musician, who fronted several bands including the Reatards and the Lost Sounds before going solo, recorded and released 14 full-length albums and more than 40 EPs and singles over the course of his 11-year career.
The film makes great use of interviews with Memphis locals and contemporaries of Reatard, along with an abundance of archival footage of live performances. But without a narrator, the film drags at times. Some interviews with minor figures in Reatard's life serve very little purpose to the overall story.
Reatard was a volatile performer with a short temper who was never afraid to speak his mind. In various scenes, he is shown breaking bottles over his head and attacking both his bandmates and audience members. In other scenes, Reatard speaks calmly and passionately about his music and comes across as nothing more than a confident perfectionist who expects the same.
Reatard also speaks openly about his drug use, describing it as the lowest point in his life: "Crack was like dropping a big (expletive) atom bomb in the middle of my life."
Hammond and Markiewicz initially set out to make a 10-minute documentary short but instead managed to capture enough compelling footage to warrant a feature-length film. "Better Than Something" is a brutally honest glimpse of Reatard's turbulent life — a gift for current and future fans of his music.
Jeff Albertson: 206-464-2304 or firstname.lastname@example.org