That was my first thought when news broke that Russell Brand: A Second Coming would be the opening night film of the 2015 South by Southwest. A documentary of the ex-husband of Katy Perry? The self proclaimed sex-addict? The obnoxious, vulgar comedian? How could there possibly be an intriguing documentary about this man?
Little did I know the incredible effort Brand has executed in reshaping his image from a drugged/sexed up manbanshee screaming meaningless drivel into a microphone to an insightful/passionate advocate for the masses without a voice.
The documentary was first conceived six years ago and after six different directors, the project fell in the lap of Ondi Timoner. When news broke hours before the World Premiere of the film that Russell Brand would not be attending the premiere it became evident that the material and process is something that made Brand uncomfortable and unsure of the film’s release.
After seeing the film it’s clear that Brand shouldn’t shun the film, he should embrace it.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing, uncomfortable scenes is an interview with Brand’s ex-wife Katy Perry during their marriage. It is painfully obvious how wrong they were becoming for each other, Brand this flamboyant free thinker with ever growing discomfort with authority and Perry, an inherently sweet, perhaps naive girl who was about to become one of the world’s biggest pop stars.
In the interview we see the opposite of chemistry between two people. It is awkward. It isn’t what you typically see from such a high profile couple and to the surprise of no one, the next frame in the documentary is of the events following their divorce.
The film, at a very lengthy two hours spends the majority of the time chronicling Brand’s enlightenment to the struggles of government and aristocratic authority. Along the way Brand becomes less obsessed with fame and the perks of wealth and more consumed with equality and a platform for all to speak.
Brand uses his reach of millions through his comedy shows, television appearances and YouTube to rattle up the system experiencing much backlash and criticism along the way. Through every turn and event the cameras are there.
What unravels is an amazing character study of a man going through his own evolution while advocating revolution. And when promoting his book, a manifest of his ideas on how the world must change, Revolution, we see him at his most vulnerable.
Timoner does an amazing job getting uncensored and unaltered footage. What we are seeing is who Brand is. Maybe it’s not what he wants us to see but as the years go by and Brand becomes less enamored with his fame, he becomes less aware of promoting a certain image.
The biggest fault of the film is the bloated run time of two hours. While Brand is fascinating and there is definitely more than enough material to fill that time, the film starts to meander and lose steam right at the peak of Brand’s activism and life. The same events are happening. Brand says something insightful, conservatives disagree and mock him, then Brand fires back with something witty. This is the whole last hour. While it is very entertaining, you wish it were a little tighter.
All in all, Russell Brand: A Second Coming does what a documentary should do. It peaks into someone’s life who is trying to be bigger than life. Throughout the film, Brand compares himself to Ghandi, Jesus, Malcolm X and many more. Whether or not he is serious about these comparisons is up to the eye of the beholder, but he speaks about all of them containing the two traits he is so easily associated with: Egotism and Narcissism. “To change the world you have to be an egomaniac and a narcissist” Brand says in the film.
While Brand might not be able to change the world the way he wants, this film does provide an amazing glimpse into a man who wants nothing more than to leave this world a better place. Is Brand an egomaniac? Of course. A Narcissist? Definitely. Is he causing a Revolution? This documentary made me think maybe, just maybe.