You're Gonna Miss Me

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 03/22/05 09:31:51

"A rock legend on the brink of madness makes a stunning comeback."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

SCREENED AT THE 2005 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: "You're gonna miss me, baby... when I'm gone." Those are the words of rock legend Roky Erickson, lead singer/songwriter of the 13th Floor Elevators, a musical group that turned the late 60's on its ear with sounds not heard before in the mainstream music scene. Erickson was the lynchpin of a brave new world of rock'n'roll, creating a sound that would soon be copied by many, and commercially exploited by many more, but all the while, the young rock star was experimenting with the usual lassortment of mindbending drugs... LSD, cocaine, heroin... and when he needed help the most, the authorities opted to instead lock him up, calling him insane and determining that he could not function in society. Ultimately, they were right... but only because they made sure of it.

Roky Erickson endured a lot at the mental hospital he was sent to. Electric shock therapy, countless 'legal' experimental drugs, and the kind of four-white-walls atmosphere that is created to contain madness, not cure it. When Roky was finally released, he wasn't the same guy, but he was functioning. Moreso, he was functioning enough to restart his musical career in an entirely new direction, with a sound that once again broke all the rules. Sure, the words were all about demons in his head, but the records sold and the people paid to watch. For a while.

Fast forward a few years and we meet Rocky's future self; a schizophrenic individual in a house filled with clutter, with radio antennaes hanging off every piece of table space, and everysingle appliance in the house on at the same time. Sitting peacefully among the high-volume din, Rocky seems content among the racket, as if the collective sounds from three strereos, two TV's, kitchen appliances and even a video camera had blocked out the voices in his head at last. His aging mother, showing ample signs of delirium herserlf, works hard to look after her son, but ultimately just doesn't see that she's enabling his sickness, rather than fighting it. Rocky degenerates, and his mother isn't far behind him when the youngest son of the Erickson family decides enough is enough.

Taking the family to court and suing for guardianship of his big brother, Sumner Erickson could just be the saving grace of Roky's life, or he could be the thing that sends him over the edge. As the battle between mother and brother reaches the courtroom, everyone seems to have the best of intentions, but they also seem to have no clue as to what to do about their rapidly worsening kin. It's gripping stuff to watch and, quite frankly, the stuff that great documentaries are made of.

Director Keven McAlester was granted incredible access in the making of this film, seemingly able to go as far into this family unit as he needed to in order to do his job. Nobody warns him off, nobody loses their temper, and even when Roky clearly doesn't want the cameras around, he's almost reticient to say so. This is a dysfunctional family in the extreme, but it's a family that got that way not through meanness or anger, but through playful fantasy and a distinct lack of touch with reality.

In a way, it's that lack of streetsmarts that allows You're Gonna Miss Me to be a beautiful film worthy of the great singer's legend. Roky is not a well man, and his own actions have combined with the actions of others to make him that way, but deep down you can see that all he ever wanted was to be a boy, play some music, and be happy. Thank heaven that Keven McAlester is the kind of documentary filmmaker who was content in showing that side of the man, and allowing that to add to his legend, rather than turning the whole thing into a freak show. Great work.

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