CSNY: Deja Vu
Two and a half stars out of four
There's a scene in this movie where angered patrons at a 2006 Atlanta concert storm out after the band Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young start the song "Let's Impeach the President." The audience boos, directs obscene gestures at the stage and offers the film crew colorful blue comments as they exit Philips Arena in disgust. They didn't pay good money to hear the bellicose sentiments of some aging, left-wing ex-hippies. They just wanted to hear some good ol' classic rock 'n' roll.
Given this was a stop on a tour called "Freedom of Speech" and CSN&Y has long been associated with anti-war/government protests, didn't the audience know what they were getting into in advance? Didn't musician, tour organizer and the movie's director Neil Young think that spouting such venom toward a "red state" audience might not be very well received?
To Young's credit, he could have left this scene and other opposing viewpoints on the cutting room floor and crafted a tree-hugging, can't-we-all-get-along, group hug affair, but he didn't. He also didn't recognize the people paying upward to $200 a ticket that grew up on CSN&Y music perhaps didn't consider the band's back catalogue to be strictly "protest songs."
As a director, Young (credited under the pseudonym Bernard Shakey) isn't half bad. The movie has a nice, even flow and the jumps between concerts, news reels, stock footage and interviews of military personnel and their families work well. Young, the filmmaker, is talented enough, but as a societal weather vein, he leaves much to be desired.
Since the dawn of time, artists and entertainers have used their celebrity status to further their own particular political and social platforms. Plato did so, as did Shakespeare, Picasso, Mailer, Arthur Miller and the Beatles. The difference here: Young is mixing his art with politics while simultaneously cramming it down people's throats. It is, at the very least, off-putting and borderline offensive - no matter what your own political viewpoint might be.
Given their limited off-stage screen time, Crosby, Stills and Nash are all able to make indelible impressions, though not always favorable. Of the three, Nash is the only one who seems to have aged gracefully and is thoughtful and measured with his commentary. Crosby offers some semi-keen observations, but both he and Stills come off looking more like bloated, archaic props than the wise, baby boomer sages their reputations generally suggest.
In the end, Young's movie will do nothing to alter or change people's perceptions of George W. Bush or the current war. He points out the obvious and does little in the way of offering anything new or insightful. Young's political views are gauze-thin and knee-jerk but he and his AARP cohorts still know how to rock. If you don't mind the idealistic grandstanding, there's just enough good music here to make the experience barely worthwhile. (Roadside Attractions)