Despite the gloomy title and the subject’s tragic demise, this valuable documentary of incendiary 1960s blues rocker Janis Joplin is actually more celebration than eulogy.
Director Amy Berg (Deliver Us From Evil) makes good use of her impressive access to Joplin’s friends, family and bandmates, along with the singer’s letters to home (read by Cat Power) and archival performances to paint a more complete portrait of the singer than previously seen.
Joplin grew up feeling like a misfit in her KKK-friendly hometown of Port Arthur, Texas, and she had to fight sexism, small-mindedness and self-destructive urges to be heard. But the struggle seemed to energize her all the more, as did her addictions: “We shot heroin for fun,” a former lover says.
By the time of Monterey Pop in 1967 through to her overdose death in 1970, Joplin was the explosive superstar she aspired to be, living true to her personal credo: “If I hold back, I’m no good.”