Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind
Ethan Coen’s music biopic Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind feels less like a conventional documentary than it does a living archive – mainly because that’s exactly what it is. The Coen brother comprises the life of the controversial rocker-turned-country-star through a compilation of live performances and old interviews, alongside a handful of interviews with Coen and the 86-year-old Lewis. The filmmaker lays the musician’s life bare in this documentary; the result is an intriguing look at a music legend, though the lack of structure does take its toll.
Spanning Lewis’s early years as a rock’n’roll sensation to his self-makeover as a born-again country star, Trouble in Mind covers a lot of ground in its just under 80-minute runtime. Lewis tells his story in his own words, and it is refreshing in the sense that the documentary feels unfiltered. Every outburst, boast and controversial claim (at one point he corrects an interviewer that he didn’t marry his 13-year-old cousin, he married her a day before her 13th birthday) is all Lewis. All the hypocrisy, anger and everything else in between is all him. By stitching this vast amount of archival footage together, Coen has crafted a fascinating portrait.
However, a lack of any coherent structure also works against the documentary here. With no concrete trajectory to follow or narrative to tell, the film jumps around in era and subject, unfolding as a stream of consciousness, and audiences may get a little lost along the way. While the large helping of musical performances demonstrates the musician’s skill and showmanship, after a point these scenes begin to feel more like padding than a key contribution to the project.
Trouble in Mind isn’t a biopic, an exposé or a celebration (a least not in the traditional sense). In his project, Coen has put Lewis’s life on screen to let viewers judge the man’s character for themselves.
Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind does not have a UK release date yet.
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