Billy Bob Thornton's documentary King of Luck premiered last night at Austin's Paramount Theatre at the close of SXSW Film Festival. King of Luck is a loving tribute to one of America's greatest musicians who will surely be remembered in the same breath as Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Billie Holiday and a few others. Willie is a beloved national treasure. For consistency sake, King of Luck has been presented entirely in black-and-white (although parts of it were originally filmed in color). The archival footage is wonderful. Willie's musical performances are compelling and the conversation with his crew and friends are delightful. Their love for Willie and his music comes across. The film is a must-see for any Willie Nelson fan. It is a really an oral history and a tribute to Willie and his remarkable life's work.
At the same time, the film is such a tribute to Willie that it presents him as more of a myth and legend than as a real human being. So many of his friends and family speak so kindly about him that his flawed humanity doesn't come across and he becomes a bit of a musical saint and less of a human being. By putting him on a pedestal, they lose some of his cantankerous spirit. That is a shame, because a good documentary could have been a lot better.
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