Sunday, March 3, 2024

One Love entertains, but isn't the place to start with Bob Marley

I was so inspired by Bob Marley that I journeyed to Jamaica to retrace his footsteps after high school. Admittedly, on that trip, I wasn’t very successful at going very far beyond the beach hotel I stayed at in Montego Bay (far from Trench Town) with two life-long buddies.

Likewise, the new movie Bob Marley: One Love doesn't go too far into telling the full story of the reggae legend. Perhaps I’ve read too much about him and expect too much, because when my son and I checked it out Saturday night, I felt a little let down. It drags in a few spots, but mainly it seems to tie together a bunch of events in Marley's life (his life-long love with his wife Rita, the gangs that keep coming after him for half-explained reasons, a European tour, debates about the direction of his album artwork with record execs) along a path that leads up to a big concert aimed at reunifying a divided Jamaica.

There are a lot of parts left out. The movie glosses the surface of Marley's Rastafarian beliefs, which eventually kill him too early since they keep him from getting his toe amputated. The filmmakers don't explain why he decides to leave the toe and let cancer spread through his body. They really don't explain why the gangs are after him. They don't explain the affairs that kept the tension so high between Rita and Bob.

I like the performances from Kingsley Ben-Adair as Bob (he was also in Barbie and the 2020 remake of High Fidelty) and Lashana Lynch as Rita. However, I don't think Ben-Adair is great in the music scenes. Perhaps it's too difficult to match Marley's vibrancy, but the actor didn't look that comfortable playing guitar and almost all of the music looked obviously lip synched and was also just pulled straight from the albums, so when a live performance would be happening on stage, it oddly would sound like a studio effort. Very sloppy.

When I could get past some of those distractions, I was able to enjoy much of the movie. It would be pretty difficult to completely destroy such a great life story. But still, much of that life remains a mystery in this version. If you really want to learn about Bob Marley, go with either the 2012 documentary Marley or Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley by Timothy White. While you're at it, see my top 30 Marley songs.

3 out of 5 stars

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