JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE (USA/15A/103mins) Directed by Amy Berg. Starring Janis Joplin, Cat Power, Peter Albin, Laura Joplin, Michael Joplin. THE PLOT: Charting the life and rise to stardom of 1960s rock icon Janis Joplin, we start with the young Texan girl’s difficult childhood. The spark for many an artist, being unpopular at school propelled Joplin ever further towards the arts, and the stage, her desperate need for acceptance and approval – her schoolmates famously, cruelly, voting Joplin Ugliest Man On Campus – fuelling a soulful cry for love that would make her a star. As success and fame descends, we see hitherto unseen clips (from an abandoned D.A. Pennebaker project) of Joplin with her first band, Big Brother And The Holding Company, rehearsing with both joy and aggression; Joplin taking the 1967 Monterey Pop festival by storm; and the eventual, inevitable launch of a solo career. All the while, letters back home to her family are read as narration by Cat Power… THE VERDICT: The vulnerability of a Billie Holiday or an Amy Winehouse mixed with the wild abandon, gravel-kick voice of Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin may not be quite in the A-list when it comes to pop culture, but her story is a classic one. Ugly kid takes revenge on a cruel world by bleeding all over their art. It can make for highly impassioned work, and it can make for an incredible story.
In the hands of documentary filmmaker Amy Berg – venturing into biography for the first time, after the likes of Deliver Us From Evil (2006) and West Of Memphis (2012) – Joplin’s story takes on a very familiar arc. Meaning ‘Little Girl Blue’ doesn’t exactly dance to the beat of its own drum – but, there is enough intrigue in such a troubled life, and enough new footage here, to make ‘Little Girl Blue’ a solid little belter. RATING: 3.5/5 Review by Paul Byrne