Shut Up and Sing Movie Review
I never thought I'd be excited to watch a movie starring the Dixie Chicks, but ever since I saw the previews for their new movie Shut Up & Sing back in the fall of 2006, I knew I had to see this film. Now out on DVD, I finally was able to lay my eyes on this sad picture about a group of women at the top of their game - until right wing politics get the best of them.
Shut Up & Sing is a documentary that covers several years of the Dixie Chicks, starting at the time when the Iraq war was just getting underway. The #1-selling female band of all time, the Dixie Chicks were loved by millions of country fans - unfortunately for them, a good chunk of country fans are right wing idiots. As the bombs begin to fall on Iraq, the band is in London on tour. Natalie Maines speaks out and says the seemingly harmless words, "I am ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas." Speaking her mind is no big deal, right?
Suddenly, the Dixie Chicks find themselves the target of right wing nu tjobs who claim they are un-American, unpatriotic and traitors to the country. You have to support your President at all times, and to do anything else jeopardizes the safety of the troops. It's bullshit, but this is what this people believed (believe). Sales of their top-ranked CD fall 42% in the first week, country radio stations start banning them across the country, and people even set up bins and CD-burning locations so people can destroy Dixie Chick merchandise. Along with that, Maines is even notified via mail that she is going to be shot dead at a concert in Dallas.
Despite being shunned by country radio (which for country singers is a pretty big deal), the Dixie Chicks decide this is the time to do the music they really want to do, since there are no expectations of them doing anything. Stuck in the middle of a political divide and forced to start at the bottom once again, the Dixie Chicks rise above adversity and shoot for the top once more.
Shut Up & Sing is a pretty good documentary. It perhaps doesn't focus as much on those first few days following Maines' anti-Bush statement as much as I would have liked, but the film moves at a fast pace and properly develops its three leads quite well. There are so many ups and downs in the movie that you really start to root for the band, even if you aren't a country fan (and I am certainly not a country fan). All I can say is that after this film, I have a much greater respect for these three women. Not only did they speak out against an idiot President (even if it was quasi-accidental), but they rode the wave and refused to back down from their stance. Instead of bending over backward for ravenous fans who betrayed them in an instant, they decide to take a different approach.
If you haven't guessed, I'm a pretty liberal person, and I have to say that what happened to the Dixie Chicks is one of the most disgusting things I've seen in the last five years (aside from invading Iraq, etc.). This country is built upon freedom and speech, and it succeeds best when people are critical of the government (which is why the country is in a rut right now, because, up until a year ago, no one was speaking out). When top-billed bands get banned from the radio for voicing their opinion, that is big stuff. People called the Dixie Chicks unpatriotic, but I think it's unpatriotic to censor people because you disagree with them.
Shut Up & Sing certainly has a political agenda, but the movie is essentially about what happened to these three women and what they did to overcome such huge obstacles. The movie is as much about their return to glory as it is about politics, and for Dixie Chick fans, there is plenty of (surprisingly decent) songs.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.