Essentially, at its core, cinema is just storytelling. Which is exactly the reason why Mike Myers’ directorial debut – alongside Beth Aala, in what is her sophomore endeavour – is such a treat. As Supermensch:
Shep Gordon is one of the most famous people you’ve never heard of, and a contact list full of people you have. From a young age he was mixing with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon, while managing eccentric rockstar Alice Cooper, partly responsible for creating that unique brand that saw the musician go on to achieve great success. From there he went on to manage the likes of Luther Vandross to Groucho Marx, while developing a close friendship with the Dalai Lama, while also accredited for launching the notion of a ‘celebrity chef’. He’s worked in film production too, and is a close friend to many of the stars – and having been such a staple part of their lives, both professionally and personally, now it’s time for them to come out in their numbers and repay the favour.
While not necessarily a profound, investigative piece of documentary filmmaking, this remains a commendable job by Myers and Aala, working more as an ode to a dear old friend. It’s been presented masterfully, as the use of stock footage to illustrate the dialogue is fantastic. So when Shep recounts conversations he had with people like Hendrix, for instance, we see muted footage of the musician speaking, to make it seem as though Shep’s words are coming out of his mouth, bringing these stories and the past to life in quite incredible fashion. The past plays a big part in this, as the music industry is indicative of a changing society, as we study how freely many artists worked in the 1960s, where people can simply become the manager of others by offering them a spliff. It’s a different world we live in today.
However where this film truly comes into its element, is the subject himself. As soon as you hear he’s the manager of musicians, mixing with some of the most cultivated, renowned figures of all time, you can’t help but picture a money obsessed schmoozer, donning a flat cap, with a Cuban cigar gently hanging out of the corner of his mouth. But that could not be further from reality, as Shep is one of the nicest, most genuine people you could encounter, and his pure vitality for life emanates off the screen to make for a film that’s so full of hope. There’s a reason why he has so many friends, and it’s because he’s a bloody nice bloke.
Such graciousness extends to his storytelling, as he manages to namedrop without ever feeling narcissistic, and describes these events with a nonchalance, though one that is counteracted somewhat by the subtlest of grins, where he’s fully aware of how surreal his life has turned out to be. Every great decision that has had led to prosperity, are made to sound so obvious and simple, ideas that make perfect sense – yet nobody else had thought them up before Shep. But he’s by no means a victim of circumstance, and he creates his own luck in that regard – though that being said, when his laptop broke on a discreet island in Fiji and the other only hotel guest happened to be Steve Jobs – who fixed it for him – you can put that one down to a touch of good fortune.
Yet Myers and Aala are keen to ensure that this remains a humanised piece, which is a notion evidently abided by and enforced – and though it’s difficult not to sit there and marvel at this man’s achievements and long to be in his position (he went out with Sharon Stone too, you know), we see his flaws and witness the moments that haven’t been quite so valuable, such as his longing to have a child. This grounds him and therefore the movie, reminding us he’s just like anybody else.
By the end of the piece you feel much like all of Shep’s friends do towards him, almost able to resonate with their eulogising, endeared by his infectious optimism. There’s a very strong chance that you may never have heard of this man beforehand, but by the close of play, you won’t ever quite forget the name Shep Gordon.