In 2012 the Beastie Boys as a band ended with the tragic death of founder Adam Yauch, aka MCA, to cancer.
So cruelly robbed of life at 47, Yauch was a man who never rested on his laurels and largely influenced the ideas and movements that the band took.
In 2018, the surviving members Adam Horowitz, aka Ad Rock, and Michael Diamond, aka Mike D, wrote a book about the band imaginatively titled, Beastie Boys Book. A large tome that revealed never before seen photos, stories (it’s intriguing to hear how he figured out how to loop songs using reel to reel players before samplers would allow it via a simple push of the button), studio lay outs (basketball court and skate ramps included) and most of all a tribute to a lost friend whom they admit they really knew, but didn’t because he was always looking ahead.
Beastie Boys Story, directed by long time collaborator and friend Spike Jonze, is a live show of Ad Rock and Mike D going over their story via parts of the book, stripped down for the film utilising props and actors to recreate some stories (wait for the Bob Dylan one).
If you’ve read the book, you will have read a lot of what’s here. It remains hugely entertaining still, with the band facing back on their past and apologising for their previous misdirected thoughts, lyrics and actions (an inflatable 20ft erect penis) using actual video clips with the music (saves having to search whilst reading the book on your preferred platform) and showing how young they were when they started on the way to becoming arguably one of the biggest bands on the planet. It’s still surprising to see the birth of Def Jam Records and the actions of their mentors Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons after their initial huge success although in the book and film it tells of the split from them and why, it doesn’t explain the relationship now given the wildly different paths all have gone down. Perhaps that’s a personal frustration on my part as Rubin especially fascinates given his extremely varied music production career which saw him work with artists and bands such as Johnny Cash, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Adele. There was even an aborted U2 collaboration that failed to yield satisfaction on either side.
But as a companion piece to the book, the film shows the genuine impact upon the friends of 35 plus years that they had on each other. The ideas stem a lot from Yauch, but each member contributes and reveals who, what and where they were. As raconteurs, Horovitz and Diamond are using teleprompters, but they’re using their own words and are effortlessly engaging in what is at times a very funny and honest film. But ultimately it’s about Yauch. An emotional love letter to him and about them as a trio, it’s a great reminder of the energy that their music, videos and live experience meant to us, the fans. It will likely win over those who might sneer at what they think they know about the Beastie Boys which the best documentaries often tend to do.
It’s about loss, friendship and having a communal memorial remembering someone you thought you knew. And it’s a crying shame we never had another Nathaniel Hornblower film.
Film ‘89 Verdict – 8/10