Documentarians telling the story of a music artist or band have lately been wisely narrowing their focus. Rather than try to tell the full sprawling tale, they instead focus in and dive deep into a particular stretch of their subject’s career. Some great recent examples are Andrew Horn’s
Director Mat Whitecross takes a similar approach with Oasis: Supersonic, the first theatrical documentary to look at the tumultuous Britpop band. Rather than walk viewers through the full history, including their multiple lineup changes, fall from commercial grace, and the love/hate dynamic between Noel and Liam Gallagher, the film centers on their most successful run: from the formation of the group through to their triumphal 1996 concerts at Knebworth where they played to an estimated 125,000 fans.
Two decades after that crazy weekend, the Gallaghers, their bandmates, and associates still have a tone of amazement in their voices as they remember those shows. It was, as they keep emphasizing, only three years earlier that Oasis signed with Creation Records and now here they were happily proclaiming themselves “the greatest band in the world.”
Whitecross makes a pretty decent case for that bit of narcissism. After forming in 1991, Oasis worked harder than anyone, driving hundreds of miles in the U.K. for the gig in Scotland that got them in front of Creation head Alan McGee and never stopping to catch their breath as the plowed forward. And along the way, they managed to record some of the most indelible pop songs of the past 20 years: “Supersonic,” “Live Forever,” and “Wonderwall,” among them.
Being lovers of rock star excess, there’s plenty of drug use, interband squabbles, and a tempestuous relationship with the British press. That last one especially comes into play when one paper decides to roll out the Gallagher brothers’ abusive father, long estranged from the family, to rile them up. Whitecross does an impressive job balancing out the highs and lows so that neither takes precedence. He celebrates the band while also being honest about the factors that led to their split in 2009.
The director is also quite content to leave the story as it is without trying to tease out new drama or hint at any possible reconciliation. Hence why the interviews with Liam and Noel are recorded separately (though you don’t see their present day faces, they’re each given a platform to reminisce without retorts from one another) and why their voiceovers are happily centered on the past. They are quite clearly thankful for all their success but see no reason to try to recreate it. Like their fans, the Gallaghers will at least have this fine document to remind them of the good times.