Throughout the 1980s, Minnesotan alt-rockers the Replacements earned a modest but ardent and devoted group of followers. And, as shown by a compelling rock doc that screened at the Independent Film Festival of Boston on Thursday, those people still have a lot to say.
Director Gorman Bechard’s Color Me Obsessed (a play on the band’s song “Color Me Impressed”) spends two hours creating a comprehensive history of the group entirely through interviews with fans, family, friends, and peers. No concert clips, no archive footage, and no music whatsoever — nothing at all from the band itself.
The interviewees’ connection to the Replacements ranges from direct (late guitarist Bob Stinson’s wife), to tangential (fellow Minnesotan musician Craig Finn of the Hold Steady), to barely existent (Cheers’ George Wendt, who is convinced the song “Here Comes a Regular” was inspired by him).
Despite the initial oddity of watching someone like comedian Dave Foley chat about the Mats (a common nickname for the band), the lax criteria ends up working to the film’s advantage. The excessive variety of voices allows Color Me Obsessed to clip along at a pace that overcomes its lack of visually dynamic footage.
Bechard, who also edited the movie, is rightly selective about breaking that steady gallop: The few times he opts to linger on one speaker, we’re given eloquent insight into the band’s personal relationships, lasting influence on music, and effect on the lives of its fanatical listeners.
The film’s risky format manages to work – but it still leaves some questions about the director’s desired audience. Color Me Obsessed’s chronological narration of the Replacements’ journey offers little info that diehard Replacements geeks don’t already know. Sure, they might connect to the watery-eyed fan testimonials, but chances are the bulk of the movie won’t be too revelatory for the already-obsessed.
At the other end of the spectrum, those wholly unexposed to the Replacements may find it a frustrating experience to sit through two hours of talk about a band without a clue of what that band sounds like. It’s great that these songs changed people’s lives, but if you can’t hear the tunes in your head, the statements aren’t going to have a lot of weight.
That leaves those in the middle: the people who have dug a few of the Mats’ songs or albums, but have never been quite motivated to fully delve into the band’s mythology. It’s to this category that Color Me Obsessed offers the most. As the movie gradually reveals the band’s twisted success story, anyone with a cursory knowledge of the group’s catalogue will be able to connect the music and the narrative — and allow the two to enhance each other.
Really, the film’s title is the best indicator of who Color Me Obsessed was made for: the picture serves as a device to turn the merely impressed into the obsessed. Those open to being colored as such will find no trouble immersing themselves in the reminiscing.