Review by Sean Boelman
In terms of music documentaries, there are generally three approaches: a biography, a performance doc, or something more abstract. Julien Temple’s Crock of Gold proves that there is a fourth type, one that is an all-out party, celebrating an artist, their work, and what they mean to their fans.
The film tells the story of Irish vocalist Shane MacGowan, whose legacy reaches far beyond the music he wrote and sang himself. And while this unlikely hero story is nothing particularly new, the admiration that the filmmaker clearly has for MacGowan is infectious, making this a joyous music doc unlike any other.
Admittedly, the movie does run long to the point it almost outstays its welcome. There is no reason that this needs to be more than two hours in length, but regardless, the lighthearted nature of the film keeps things moving. The sense of humor that MacGowan brings to the table, even despite what he has been through, is endearing.
Temple uses a few different storytelling devices to communicate MacGowan’s story. Perhaps the most effective are conversations in a pub between MacGowan, Johnny Depp, and others, as they reminisce about his music and why it had such an impact. This gives the movie a much more personal feeling than most music documentaries.
Of course, there’s a lot of great archive footage of performances that MacGowan did in his younger years, and his music has a very prevalent role in the soundtrack. Even more interesting is that the film is framed around the concert that was held in honor of MacGowan’s sixtieth birthday, which brings in some other great musicians.
Fans will love getting this opportunity to see MacGowan recognized like this, and those unfamiliar will leave the movie with a great appreciation for him. Temple is able to capture his personality shockingly well, which is a significant part of what makes this documentary so charming and fun to watch.
That said, the film does pull some punches in regards to the darker sides of MacGowan’s life. His substance abuse issues are barely explored here, with more of a focus on his music. Granted, since this is supposed to be a celebration more than anything else, it’s understandable why Temple didn’t want to linger on this part of the story.
Those looking for an in-depth and hard-hitting music documentary won’t find that in Crock of Gold, but it’s still a very good time. As a bit of lighthearted escapism from today’s stresses, this is exactly what music fans need.
Crock of Gold hits theaters and VOD on December 4.