In Review: Made in America (2013) on DVD

by Maryann O'Connor on 20/05/2014

made in america It’s hard to know what the intention was with this joint effort from Ron Howard and Jay Z. It’s a film of a two day music festival in Philadelphia, which is heavily punctuated by starry emissions of self-help mantra, back stories about artists such as Janelle Monáe and Run DMC, and short interviews with the little guy [the festival workers]. 

We are presented with a conveyor belt of talented musical acts, who wow us with their performances and then try to wow us with their wisdom. After a while you think, ugh, yes, everyone is feeling very happy and blessed. Enough, already. However, I did appreciate Janelle Monáe’s explanation of her black and white stage uniform and happily discovered that Gary Clark Jr. is an excellent vocalist/guitarist.

Made in America tries very hard to be a 90 minute long motivational film: Jay Z tells his own story of Marcy Projects to riches and opines that ‘everyone has genius level talent’ in something. Jay Z tries hard to impart truth bombs with maximum impact but ruins it in the summing-up portion of the film, when he trots out the wearily patriotic ‘Land of the Free, Home of the Brave’ stuff.

The title of king of philosophy in this film must go to one part of Run DMC, Darryl McDaniels. Despite the slightly patronising introduction bit for anyone who isn’t familiar with the work of Run DMC, the two men (the other being Joseph ‘Run’ Simmons) are probably the most entertaining part of the film. McDaniels opinions on music and life are succinct and honest, most closely reflecting the feelings of the festival workers interviewed for the film; most people strive hard but can’t live on the money they get.

The two-faced nature of the film is distinctly underwhelming: on the face of it, Made in America is a slightly annoying documentary about making it Big, with some good music. Below the surface, it confirms that if you have an obvious talent in some form of musical expression then you have a chance at the big bucks, and someday making a film with Ron Howard. The rest of us will just have to keep on searching for our genius-level talent while trying to keep the lights on.

No extras at time of review. Made In America is available now on VoD and DVD.

Maryann has awarded Made in America (2013) on DVD two Torches of Truth


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