Review by Sean Boelman
Although it almost doesn’t work because it treats the audience like they’re in the blind even when they aren’t, Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl is an expectedly fun rock doc. Thanks to the charm of the eponymous indie pop/punk musician, it will be an entertaining watch even for those who aren’t already fans.
The film follows Kate Nash as she tries to reinvent her public persona after her debut album goes very well but she feels called creatively to take a different path. For the most part, the film sticks pretty closely to standard rock doc conventions, a structure which is admittedly a tad underwhelming given how Nash’s story is all about breaking the mold.
That said, the film does a very good job of delivering its message about being oneself and not conforming to unfair expectations from an unappreciative public. It’s a subtly empowering tale of how people (especially women) face adversity in the industry every day and yet persevere to find success despite the naysayers.
Ultimately, the biggest issue with the film is that it doesn’t take into account those who are already familiar with Nash’s career. The film was shot over several years, which is obvious because a large portion of it occurs before Nash got her breakout role on the Netflix series GLOW. Since the target audience will already know how she will get back on her feet, some of the emotional impact is diminished.
Regardless, the film does a very good job of making Nash’s story compelling. Apart from a few parts that feel slightly overdramatized (such as one exposing Nash’s financial exploitation by a former manager), it’s a very inspiring story of how one person can pursue their dreams while making a visible difference on the people that surround them.
As one would expect, Nash’s music plays a big role in the film, and it’s incorporated quite well. The film features both performance footage and up-close-and-personal insight into her songwriting process as she collaborates with others to realize her vision of her sound. The film also uses on-screen text to represent the lyrics, and while this is a common gimmick, it definitely works here.
Like most other rock documentaries, this benefits from the filmmaker having unparalleled access to the subject. The crew follows Nash on tour and through her personal life, with a majority of the film taking the form of fly-on-the-wall footage. There are a few ambitious swings-and-misses, but the film is at its best when it takes this simple but approachable format.
Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl is a fun music documentary. While it may not be the most revelatory or revolutionary film of the genre, it offers plenty for fans and casual moviegoers alike, and at less than an hour and a half in length, what’s not to love?
Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl is now streaming exclusively On Alamo on Demand here.