Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (PG-13)

Documentary 100 July 3, 2013
By Stephanie Zacharek
The average guy on the street may know who or what Big Star is or was. But the right guy will always know-- or be heartened to learn. A grand power-pop outfit formed in 1971 in Memphis by Alex Chilton, former lead singer of the Box Tops, and Chris Bell, a local kid with a gift for sensitive, tensile songwriting, the band released three badly distributed and decidedly non-lucrative albums before disintegrating in 1974. Only then did lovers of pop music around the world begin hearing about them. You could say Big Star achieved that dubious distinction known as cult status, but the ardor they inspire is deeper and more mysterious than that. Drew DiNicola's documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me honors that sense of mystery, telling the band's story as if whispering it through the cracks in a wall. There's very little footage of the band themselves—their elusive magic found its truest expression in the studio rather than before a live audience. For that reason, Big Star may not be the best introduction for those who don’t yet have at least some passing familiarity with the bruised-knee wistfulness of songs like "Thirteen," or the quavery undersea despair of "Kangaroo." But for anyone already curious, Nothing Can Hurt Me delivers the goods. DiNicola outlines the band's half-triumphant, half-tragic story by seeking out the key surviving players and getting to the heart of how Big Star, rather than just being mopey, could spin despair into the finest grade of gold, a thing too beautiful to hang onto forever—somehow, they made melancholy freeing.
Drew DeNicola, Oliva Mori Oliva Mori, Danielle McCarthy Magnolia Pictures

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