Opening January 14, 2016
Directed by: Amy J. Berg
Writing credits: Amy J. Berg
Principal actors: Documentary with Janis Joplin, Cat Power narrates
Janis Joplin was the legendary brash acid rock poster girl from the flower power Haight-Ashbury generation of the ‘60s. Her songs, deeply rooted in the blues, exploded into ballads with an emotive pitch no present day rock star has been able to duplicate. Berg has documented Janis’ life starting as the awkward young daughter of a conservative middle class family living in Port Arthur, Texas. Berg continuously draws us back to Janis’ early years in Texas where, as an outsider and freak, she began covering her hurt with flamboyant costumes and hell-raising antics.
Berg has collected fascinating and sometimes amateurishly retro footage of Janis in the years before and during her skyrocketing career. The performance at the Monterey Pop Festival catapulted her into fame; her performance at Woodstock documented her dark-sided heroin addiction propelling her along the road to becoming a member of the 27 Club. There are interviews with more than twenty of her contemporaries including classmates, band members, and industry giants Dick Cavett and Clive Davis. The sound track with more than thirty songs is both exhilarating and haunting. Janis is mesmerizing when she sings “Cry Baby” and ultimately “Me and Bobby Mcgee”; she almost smothers us with her extraordinary talent and deep unquenchable anguish.
Janis’ brother Michael and sister Laura are interviewed and share letters, photos, and home movies of the Joplin family. Cat Power (aka singer-songwriter Chan Marshall) was cleverly chosen as the contrasting voice of the shrill star. In a dulcet Southern drawl she reads the letters Janis had written to her parents over the years after leaving Port Arthur. Janis’ letters home ooze the aching vulnerability of a little girl wanting nothing more than acceptance, approval, and love from her family and friends. Somehow she can never recover from the pain of growing up as a rejected outsider in Port Arthur, Texas. ( )