Not So Gentle On My Mind (Documentary Review: “I’ll Be Me”)

America’s own Rhinestone Cowboy hits the road in a fearless and truly final farewell tour.

SnapShot Plot

As if launching an exhausting coast-to-coast concert tour isn’t stressful enough at any age, try doing it when you’re 77. And try doing it on the heels of a diagnosis of advanced Alzheimer’s Disease and you’ll begin to fathom the Herculean effort of Will and Love exhibited by Glen Campbell, his extraordinary wife Kim, and their gifted and devoted family of musicians, in the poignant and joy-filled documentary, I’ll Be Me.

Shortly after the release of his beautiful and elegiac 2011 album, ‘Ghost on the Canvas’ (eerily named, as it turned out), Glen Campbell received the tragic diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease, which apparently came as no surprise to his wife and family. But instead of folding up their plans for a 5-week tour to promote the album, they held their collective breaths, made lots of changes including the pivotal use of a teleprompter and an emphasis on Campbell’s classic songbook of hits, and reinvented the project as the “Glen Campbell Goodbye Tour”. In all truth, nobody expected it could really work. What shocked them was that it morphed into a triumphant celebration of musical spirit which played 151 shows over a span of a year and a half, during which Glen Campbell was honored at the Country Music Awards in 2011 and presented a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy Awards in 2012. In fact, for a good long time, it seemed the musical stage and the reality of performing were not only revitalizing to the singer, but even seemed to slow the signs of progressive dementia that would (and will) eventually lay claim to his mind and his life.

 

 

Parting Shot

Glen Campbell’s contribution to the American songbook – due in large part to his collaboration with legendary songwriter, Jimmy Webb – has made him a national treasure. Need I mention classic Webb songs which include Wichita Lineman, By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Galveston, or The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress? And let’s not omit the famous songs he recorded for other writers, such as Southern Nights, Rhinestone Cowboy, and Gentle On My Mind. His work even extended to his own variety show for CBS, and I wonder if you know who co-starred with John Wayne in his Oscar-winning film, True Grit? His zenith talent seems to have had no limitations, as did his musical influence on an entire generation of Baby Boomers. Not since Ronald Reagan’s and Charlton Heston’s Alzheimer’s diagnoses have we (arguably) been so collectively saddened to hear that yet another living legend is going down the same rabbit hole.

At essence, I’ll Be Me is an inviting, involving road trip movie that will have you literally laughing through your tears, as the entire Campbell family is quite simply the embodiment of joyful harmony, both on and off the stage. Which is not to say that the film pulls any punches when it comes to an honest depiction of Alzheimer’s in all its degenerative fury. To see Campbell sticking knives in his mouth and licking off plates like a dog is hard to watch, no doubt hard to film. His suffering is also deceptively tricky in light of Campbell’s good ‘ole country boy, ‘aw shucks’ image which lends itself to nonchalance instead of moroseness. Or perhaps he’s truly unaware, no one can know for sure.

I’ll Be Me manages to maintain perfect pitch – much like Campbell’s own voice –  as it hits the highs of a glorious career and the adulation of a nation, against the harrowing lows of an insidious disease that grotesquely chips away at the memories that distinguish our very Humanity.

I’ll Be Me is presently streaming on Netflix.

Norma’s Streaming Picks is proud to announce squatters rights on a new site for Baby Boomers, Midcentury/Modern as well as right here on my own site. I invite you to go there for more great content!

 

YouTube Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F13AslSXg7w

2 Comments

  • Mary says:

    We just watched this the other night thanks to your recommendation, Norma…tears still in our eyes..what a testament of love and humor…thanks again for guiding us through the Netflix choices maze!

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