Brand: A Second Coming
Canadian philosopher Marshall MacLuhan, arguably the quintessential figure of communication theory, is best-known for arguing the case that the vehicle through which a message is delivered informs the way it is received, famously coining the phrase “the medium is the message”. Bearing this perspective in mind when watching Brand, it’s difficult to avoid its omnipresent relevance when witnessing the visual biography of a man who has bounced frenetically around the public eye for the last 20 years like a loose firework. The documentary struggles to hold its cohesiveness in the same manner as Brand himself is revealed to have lived a life with an abhorrence for any sort of consistency.
Make no mistake, Brand is a documentary about Russell Brand and in this respect honours all expectations: expect a thoroughly engaging romp through a life of destruction and re-construction, of intense personal and public scrutiny and enablement of self-referential narcissism that is at some times endearing and others frustrating.The film is Brand; his life, his accomplishments, his failures, his milestones and every act of cheeky school boy transgression in between that has made him the cult of personality that he is.
Superficially, the film follows the chronology of Brand’s life, from his childhood in Essex to his early political activities to his widely publicised struggles with various forms of addiction to his recent tendencies towards global scale political activism. Interspersed between mountains of archival footage are interviews with Brand’s friends and family, colleagues, media pundits, ex-lovers, academics and Brand himself to provide insight into the man’s character and how he fits into the socio-political scene of the modern day.
Director Ondi Timoner has since stated in interviews that she “didn’t drink the Kool Aid”; her proximity to Brand during production did not win her over to Russell’s vision of global utopia. The film, however, suggests otherwise: Brand’s proponents and friends are given a much larger platform than his detractors who are, by comparison, gifted snippets in the film’s final act. It’s possible to ignore Brand’s rampant idealism to focus on the character study of his life and mind, but this renders large portions of the film unfit for consumption. Essentially, to enjoy the film you have to (excuse the pun) buy the Brand.
Watch the trailer for Brand: A Second Coming here: