Review by Sean Boelman
When one thinks of the Bee Gees, their mind likely jumps immediately to Saturday Night Fever and disco music, ignoring the music they made for years before and after. Frank Marshall’s new documentary The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart does not, providing a detailed and compelling look into the life and career of the brothers Gibb.
The film traces the tumultuous history of the band known as the Bee Gees, formed of brothers Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb as they reinvented the landscape of popular music time and time again. Even though fans will already know some of the backstage drama, it is nice to see it from the perspective of the people involved themselves.
Perhaps the best thing about Marshall’s documentary is that it provides viewers the opportunity to hear directly from surviving member Barry Gibb in a series of really interesting interviews. Marshall also utilizes some archive materials to make sure that the other brothers get their chance to tell their part of the story, but it is particularly important to hear what Barry has to say.
It’s clear that there were tensions between the brothers that weighed a lot on them, some able to be resolved before the untimely passing of all but one, and others not. But reliving their journey and discussing some of these issues that arose seems to have been a cathartic experience for Barry, who still clearly has a lot of love for his brothers.
As is the case with so many movies about people who skyrocket into fame, this is a cautionary tale to not let the ego get to one’s head and to make sure to hold those close to us dearly. It’s an often heartbreaking story, and one that we have sadly seen many times before, but fans will still find it to be quite powerful.
Marshall also paces the film quite interestingly. He breezes through the light and airy parts in which the Bee Gees are creating some of their biggest hits, but lingers on the darker moments of the story. This plays into the idea of how there are so many rises and falls when talking about success in the industry.
Of course, there is plenty of great music. There is some pretty extensive use of performance footage and archive materials from recording sessions that feature some recognizable tunes. And audiences can expect to hear the stories of how some of their favorite Bee Gees songs like “Stayin’ Alive”, “Night Fever”, and the eponymous ballad came to be.
The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart is the ultimate documentary for fans of the band, but it’s also a great music documentary in its own right. More so than being the story of a group of musicians, it’s the story of a group of brothers, and a touching one at that.
The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart airs on HBO on December 12 at 8pm ET/PT.