Film Review: Marley

Film Review: Marley

Film Journal International

Marsha McCreadie

Marley, the documentary by Oscar-winning Kevin Macdonald about the legendary musician and national and international symbol for individual rights, should sparkle and sing—OK, there’s some of that—but it just sort of hums along. Maybe you can’t catch this particular lightning in a bottle, but there might be another way than this respectful, straightforward, admiring approach.

 If anyone could display the spectacular yet contradictory parts of Bob Marley—a multi-talented half-black/half-white womanizer who loved spiritually and pan-nationally; a mesmerizing performer who was a quiet guy; a pride-instiller for his dirt-poor country and religious proselytizer who lived by his own rules—it should be Macdonald. The Oscar-winning British director made the tyrant Idi Amin likeable and the charming James McAvoy despicable in The Last King of Scotland; he set our hearts to pounding with the jarring edit of massacred Israeli Olympians in One Day in September. Marley is thorough, revelatory and completely fair-minded. It’s just not very exciting. Wrong for Bob Marley…

…The Marley family-approved doc includes rare, candid interviews with his children (well, two of the eleven), and three—wait, four—of his seven women. Marley comes across as introspective, also extremely competitive (one too many shots of him at soccer), emphasizing the psychoanalytic angle that he was so driven because he never really knew his white father, married to his mother Cedella but mainly absent until he died when Bob was 10. We see a photo of Norval Marley, learn what little there is to know about this British Marine captain, and find that Bob always saw himself as an outsider: never part of the white community nor of the black, as he was considered a half-caste, not black enough. In the black Jamaican community, it was rumored his white half caused his melanoma, from which he died at 36…

Read the entire review here.

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