by Rob van Alstyne
A close up look at Oklahoma’s finest purveyors of psych-pop, the Flaming Lips, “The Fearless Freaks” avoids the standard band biopic feel due to the unprecedented access of the director.
The next-door neighbor of wacky front man par excellence Wayne Coyne since 1991, director Bradley Beesley has helped helm many of the band’s music videos and his role throughout the film is clearly more comrade with a camera than voyeuristic intruder.
unusual level of directorial familiarity leads to numerous extended segments
about the band members’ personal lives that are both humorous (Coyne recalling
his decade-long run as the head fry cook at a Long John Silver’s) and
unsettling (the scene in which multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd talks frankly
about his then raging heroin addiction while shooting up on camera).
Although admittedly overlong at 98 minutes, it’s hard to say where the
cuts should have been made. The film’s subplots, which in some ways seem
most extraneous to telling the story of the band, also frequently boast the
most entertaining footage. A prime example of this is the extended segment on
the Coyne family’s backyard, no-pads tackle football league from the early
1970s, where we get to see a young Wayne, his various rough shod brothers (some
of whom spent subsequent years shuffling in and out of prison) and
their pals smoking copious amounts of weed, chugging beers and delivering forearm
shivers to each other in the face.
Throughout the film Coyne comes off as an immensely likable, real-life Peter
Pan, a fun loving guy who still lives on the same street in “sort of a
ghetto area of Oklahoma” because he feels comfortable there, mowing his
lawn in absurd green boots and building science fiction movie sets in his back
A truly great band documentary that will hold Flaming Lips devotees entranced
throughout, and, more importantly, proves riveting for even the casual Lips
“The Fearless Freaks” plays on Fri. April 15 at 9:30 p.m.
and again on Sat. April 16 at 7 p.m. at the Bell Auditorium as part of the Minneapolis-St.
Paul International Film Festival.