I was intrigued when I heard that the music channel VH-1 had chosen the band Sweetwater as the subject for its first original movie production. After all, a band which didn't even get their 15 minutes of fame and who 99% of the potential viewers never even heard of wasn't exactly what one would have guessed would be their first project. As it turns out, there was a story worth telling about the rise and fall of this band who never got anywhere near the top, but did hit rock bottom.
Lest anyone doubt it, Sweetwater actually did create quite a buzz for a brief time with their exciting live appearances, especially at the large rock festivals in the summer of 1969. However, their first album release failed to capture that live energy and the multi-ethnic band with the flutist and cellist quickly dropped from view. What most fans never knew was that Nansi Nevins, the lead singer of this 7-piece group with a Caribbean/Latin jazz flavor, was in a serious auto accident not that long after their Woodstock appearance, an accident which greatly diminished her singing voice. The band struggled on for a while, but without her identity and visual focus as well as vocal talent they had no future.
Nevins' story is the focus of the movie and she hits the skids after her accident in true rock star fashion, but she is redeemed eventually. Amy Jo Johnson plays her and does her own singing. As a co-star on 'Felicity' she sometimes gets the chance to sing as well, but those are usually quiet introspective songs and she probably relished the chance to belt out a few tunes for this film.
The problem, though, is that this is a TV-movie, and almost by definition that means a more bland, homogenized product than a theatrical release. The compelling true story helps ameliorate this built-in shortcoming and, all things considered, it was a decent flick.
In a newspaper review of this film there was the suggestion that the backers of this movie had some sort of financial interest in promoting the recently reformed Sweetwater's comeback and that this movie was part of that effort. I don't know if the same sort of standards we apply to politicians and such apply here, but it is a potentially sticky situation. On the other hand, one could hardly think of a less lucrative moneymaking vehicle than this band, based on their past track record. I am grateful that someone took a chance on this rather arcane subject matter; we could use more of that from television. On balance, I'm glad they made 'Sweetwater,' the movie.