Oh, the wonders of the deep deep depths of my Netflix instant queue. Full of films that I have no recollection ever adding to my queue let alone why I decided to one day watch these gems, I get a pleasant surprise every time I randomly click one to watch. Passing Strange was one of those films that I didn’t know anything about it except for the lacking synopsis Netflix gives. (Seriously… Netflix. Your synopses suck big ones. You should just hire me already… I am a genius at giving amazing reviews.) I did not expect this to be a filmed stage performance of a musical about a rocker’s life. I did not expect this stage play to be filmed by Spike Lee. I also did not expect to like it as much as I did.
Like several other musicals, this musical is a journey of self discovery. You see young girls becoming women, young boys becoming men through trials and tribulations all the time in musicals. There unfortunately is nothing unique in this man’s journey. But what is unique about this musical is the way this run of the mill story is told. It is told through the creator of the musical who it just so happens to be his own story. He stands (or sits) on stage and sings, quips, and rocks while the standard story is taking place. One other thing that is unique about this musical is the story is about a black rock musician that did not come from the slums of any inner city. All too often you see coming of age stories that are about black men coming from a ghetto. As more and more black people pull themselves up by their bootstraps, this narrative becomes less true to real every day life. However just because you are now middle class, does not mean that your story no longer matters. This musical proves that.
The one issue I had with this film was how incredibly long it was. This is my major critique of every musical I have ever sat through (with some notable exceptions like Once or Moulin Rouge). Unfortunately songs that progress the story also make the story sooooo long. This is why I shy away from musicals in general. You can get the same feeling hearing one line of dialogue that you can get from hearing an entire song in this musical. When those songs are unique and interesting, it doesn’t matter how long the song is. But when the song exists purely to move the story along, it makes me yawn and take a mini nap in the middle of the story.
A musical made by a black man and a white woman is unique enough to garner a viewing of this filmed version. So many musicals are fueled by men who have been in the business for so long that you feel as if you have seen every single musical time and time again. This musical gives the genre a breath of fresh air. I hope the creator behind this musical continues to be creative in other mediums as well as in musicals. We really need him.
By the way who is excited for Spike Lee’s adaptation of Oldboy? I know I am…