Directed by | Amy J. Berg
Produced by | Amy J. Berg, Alex Gibney, Jeff Jampol, Katherine LeBlond
Narrated by | Cat Power
Starring | Janis Joplin
Run Time | 103 mins
Certificate | 15
Plot | Amy J. Berg collates archive footage, talking head interviews, and Cat Power narrates some personal letters address to Joplin’s family in this documentary on the troubled singer’s life.
Review | There’s no doubt that the talented- yet-troubled Joplin is more than worthy of a big Hollywood biopic. For one reason or another, this has yet to materialise. In its absence, we are left looking to documentaries such as this to gain an insight into the Texan’s life and mindset. It’s a slight shame then that, while entertaining, Janis: Little Girl Blue seems a little lightweight, particularly from documentary heavyweights such as Amy J. Berg (Deliver Us From Evil) and Alex Gibney (Going Clear… and Enron…).
Janis: Little Girl Blue follows a relatively linear path, spending a little time on her youth and pre-music biz years to set the scene. While insightful, little is dwelled upon for too long, besides a rather sad anecdote revolving around some of her classmates voting her the ugliest boy in school. The second half or so focuses on her music career and briefly notes a few of her relationships along the way.
There are three key elements that make up the documentary. There are talking heads interviews with family, friends and ex-boyfriends.While a little run-of-the-mill, a couple of the guests are quite interesting. Secondly, there is a heap of archive footage (particularly of Joplin on tour, be it with Big Brother and the Holding Company or later on with the Kozmic Blues Band) which, while not new, is still a good way to elaborate to the audience the power and live performance Joplin had in her. Finally, there is what should have been the crown jewel of the doc – hand written letters home from throughout the years, narrated by Cat Power. Where this could have be used to give the audience an emotive hook – giving our star a voice – Power’s delivery is often too sombre and subtle to be emotionally affecting.
How Janis: Little Girl Blue is received by the audience way well be determined by how much they already know. If little, then there will definitely be something for them here. For more ardent and well versed followers, besides the familial letters it is a little light on new information and interviews, though it should prove entertaining – particularly with the amount of extended live clips that are peppered throughout.
The Verdict | Though a little lightweight overall, Janis: A Little Girl Blue is a compelling, decent documentary.