Simplicity Overblown: Our Review of ‘Coldplay: A Head Full of Dreams’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - November 16, 2018
Simplicity Overblown: Our Review of ‘Coldplay: A Head Full of Dreams’

This documentary has its share of grainy footage of Coldplay’s early days. Audiences get a taste of that while its front man, Chris Martin telephones the director and his friend Mat Whitecross. The former hopes that the latter didn’t start the movie with footage of him and the band exiting a hallway into whatever stage where they’re performing. Which is what we’re seeing, and there’s a goofiness to all of this.

The film then cuts to a massive stadiums filled with tens of thousands of fans. They all have to listen to Chaplin’s famous Great Dictator speech beforehand, which reminds me why I stopped being their fan. Coldplay was the go to band for sensitive humility, making the kind of music I would cry to. No one should begrudge a band when they start being successful and stop singing mopey songs about struggling.

The footage of these massive concerts are symptomatic of what goes wrong when a band becomes more successful. Sure, they make happy music now, and former fans’ distaste of that is as indicative of them as it is with the band they used to listen to. But despite their best efforts, their happiness comes across as saccharine. And the bombastic nature of the juxtapositions they make musically is off putting these days.

The film itself reflects the band’s overblown ambitions, a failed palimpsest of the old and new Coldplay. There are some brilliant moments within this jumble. There, a discussion about a set list turns into Martin making Venn diagrams. Had he not been a famous rock musician that we’re tired of, he would have been a famous comedian. Martin also comes across as genuine when he works with his children.

This still comes off as the Chris Martin show though. This approach is understandable – being the front man he’s also the gateway to his band mates’ stories. But using his voice to introduce a story line that involves drummer Will Champion’s mother’s death left a bad taste in my mouth. It also shafts other band mates, including manager turned creative director Phil Harvey, guitarist Jonny Buckland and shy bassist Guy Berryman.

The film’s structure centers on Champion and Harvey’s separate, temporary departures from the band. Harvey’s departure feels heavier, affecting their sound and morale in making their third album, XY. Which reminds me that this got its title from the band’s seventh studio album. I would have preferred an analysis of the band’s present instead of a clarification of the past decades. Watch out for cameos of Beyonce, Manila, and MuchMusic though.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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