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Docurama presents
Sophie B. Hawkins: The Cream Will Rise (1998)

"Everybody has their things in life. Mine is really writing songs."
- Sophie B. Hawkins

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: May 17, 2002

Stars: Sophie B. Hawkins
Other Stars: Joan Hawkins, Virginia Lee Wolf, Jay Leno, John Nash, Nicholas Hawkins, Marla McNally
Director: Gigi Gaston

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for some profanity
Run Time: 01h:25m:45s
Release Date: February 26, 2002
UPC: 767685949832
Genre: documentary


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- CB+B- B-

DVD Review

How big a Sophie B. Hawkins fan are you? Even if you think you max out on the scale, this movie may test your patience, and I'm here to tell you that there's somebody who loves Sophie more than you do. And that's Sophie herself. Just ask her. She'll tell you, and tell you, and then tell you some more, as anybody who watches this documentary can attest. Oh my goodness, does this woman love to hear herself talk. She's smart, and she's articulate, and she's recorded some great music, but all of that takes a back seat in this movie, so that Sophie can examine Sophie's emotional life. Indeed, as Socrates tells us, the unexamined life is not worth living, but this film crosses some line from self-examination to nothing but navel-gazing and solipsism. And whatever you think about Sophie, Sophie herself will have the last word. The film sees to that: the director runs the footage of interviews with others (her tour manager, for instance) for Sophie, who then gets to respond. The crew documents Hawkins' 1997 tour, and while Sophie readily cops to being a diva, it's in the interest of making the show better. (As the tour manager says about the boss, "We function around here on the premise that if she's happy, we're happy.") This touches on a problem that more than one female artist has rightly complained about: when a man demands high standards, he's lauded a perfectionist. When a woman does the same, she's disparaged as a bitch. One of the things you may come away admiring about Hawkins is that she doesn't much care what people think of her—she's brimming with self-confidence, and certainly much of it is justified, but that doesn't necessarily make for great cinema. Sophie says more than once that she's conflicted about fame, but you'd never know it from the footage here—she seems to relish being the center of attention. Which means we're in for long arias of self-congratulation ("I was so brave, I didn't even know it"), her hopes and dreams ("You know what I want out of this tour? I want a surprise"), and of course the obligatory profanity-laden tirade against her record label ("F*** you to the f***ing a**holes at the stupid motherf***ing record company, who have no f***ing taste"). If she's so on the fence about being famous, why did she agree to let herself be filmed in this way? Or why don't we see her even once ask them to turn off the cameras? Why does she read aloud from her private journal, if she doesn't care to invite this sort of scrutiny? We meet just a few others in Sophie's world, almost all of them in her employ; the principal exceptions to this are her brother Nicky and her mother, whom she refers to as Mummy. Sophie and Mummy stroll through Central Park (Sophie grew up in Manhattan, and feels that on some spiritual level "New York is still my real mother"), sorting through the shards of their psychological histories. There's lots about alcoholic Dad and all the Scotch he drank, footage of Sophie's tearful return to the summer house on Long Island ("I can never come home"), and a mother's lament: "My great sadness about Sophie is not being able to have an emotional intimacy with her." I can't imagine that mediating such sentiments through a documentary film crew is the best strategy for achieving that sort of emotional intimacy. The Hawkins women are hyperarticulate, but I don't know that that's the same thing as being self-aware. The big mother/daughter breakthrough is Mummy's decision to come to L.A. and go to therapy with Sophie—and then, of course, to tell the documentarians all about it. I'm not knocking therapy; I just wonder about the wisdom of filing a postgame report with a documentary film crew after every session. More than once during this movie, you may find yourself wanting to yell back: Good God, woman, shut up and sing. Which, happily, she does, and there are generous amounts of music, concert footage especially; I was particularly taken with her cover of Bob Dylan's I Want You. Her songs are sharp and fresh, and her stage persona is charismatic; it's almost as if her self-editor is working overtime in her art, but has gone napsy-bye in her life, and this movie gives too much of the latter, not enough of the former. There's no detail too small for Sophie to talk and talk about—it's the fetishization of all the small details in the guise of therapy. But, you know, sometimes talking about it is just talking about it, and doesn't necessarily bring enlightenment. In this respect Hawkins seems like the musical analogue to the late '90s memoir craze—she's an MTV Elizabeth Wurtzel who helpfully provides her own soundtrack.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The picture was made with a variety of film types, including handheld 8mm, and the contrast works pretty well on DVD. The nicks on the image seem to be from the camera negatives, not the transfer, and the color and black levels are reasonably consistent.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The stereo track sounds pretty reasonable, but inevitably has its limits, as most of the footage was shot with lightweight, handheld equipment, so there's rather too much hiss. The music sounds particularly well mixed and transferred, as it should, given the subject at hand.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Regret To Inform, Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back, Dancemaker, Speaking in Strings, Fastpitch, Sound and Fury
1 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Three Sophie B. Hawkins music videos: Lose Your Way, The One You Have Not Seen, Walking In My Blue Jeans
  2. Photo gallery
  3. Docurama catalog
Extras Review: Still haven't had enough Sophie after the feature? Well, good, because there's a great big dollop of her in the extras. The commentary footage (35m:22s) isn't an alternate audio track, but new video of Sophie, shot in 2001, four years after the making of the documentary; she's watching the movie, she's chatting about how she's changed, she even cedes a small amount of camera time to the director, Gigi Gaston. You won't find any epiphanies about fame, but Sophie will be happy to tell you about her life and her evolution—you may find yourself thinking, Ohmigod, it's still more of her talking. (I know I did.) The valentine to Sophie continues in the photo gallery, which consists of 18 pictures, 17 of which are of you know who. (The other one is of Gaston.) The biography of Hawkins is four panels, and there's a three-panel one on Gaston; the TV spot was prepared for the Sundance Channel. Not included among the videos is the complete first version of Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover, notoriously banned by MTV.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Things are oddly inverted in this documentary—Hawkins' music serves as not much more than a convenient background for her own autopsychological examination before the camera, but the hard truth seems to be that her work is more interesting than her life. (Unfortunately the filmmakers disagree.) Hardcore fans will relish this, some insights buried in a wallowing in Hawkins' various emotional states; the rest of us will probably pass a kinder judgment on Hawkins by merely listening to her music, and not her incessant self-dramatization.

 


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