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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

eFilmcritic Archive: "Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out" (2006)

Not all documentaries have to tell the whole story. Not all documentaries have to be balanced. Not all documentaries have to be warts and all. It’s a rather flexible medium and has limitless possibilities, but rock documentaries can be the trickiest. How does one make a compelling, engaging documentary about an artist or a band for the audience member who walks in with little to no interest in the first place? With Stewart Copeland’s self-reflective documentary "Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out," it would be safe to say that no documentary about a band should be made by the drummer.

Copeland’s documentary consists solely of footage he shot on a Super 8 camera when The Police started out. It charts their humble beginnings in the late ‘70s and finishes just before the release of their final album, Synchronicity, only a few years later. There are no current interviews with any of the band members, their fans, critics, their managers or their wives. For 74 minutes, you’re stuck with Copeland’s home movies while he dryly, awkwardly narrates over them, sometimes utilizing embarrassing poetry.

I consider myself a casual Police fan. I like them and I understand why they became one of the world’s biggest bands at the time. Their simple, sometimes sparse structures coupled with obvious reggae influences was fresh and original, especially in the grim climate of ‘70s FM rock. The lyrics about temptation and the darker side of relationships were interesting and fun to listen to without being shallow and, as the one thing the documentary clearly conveys, they knew how to rock the house. So, please spare me the “you’re not a fan, so you wouldn’t like it anyway” argument. I’m not a fan of The Band either, but that doesn’t make Scorsese’s “The Last Waltz” less of a great movie and as a die-hard U2 fan, I find “Rattle & Hum” horrendously flawed (but thank heavens Larry Mullen Jr. didn’t narrate it!).

So I don’t consider myself predisposed to liking or disliking this movie based on its subject. I really wanted to like it. The problem is Copeland’s technique. The movie seems to be strung together haphazardly, almost as though no thought went into whether or not anything should be cut out. The editing room floor must have been spotless. The footage is not all that compelling and in many ways it’s redundant. Why have two live versions of the same song back to back? How many times do you have to remind me of how popular you were? Unfortunately, with the footage that exists, Copeland’s strategy was doomed from the start. The footage shows us nothing while Copeland tells us everything. It’s like watching an audiobook.

Again, it’s for serious die-hards only and not at all worth a slot at Sundance. I think, though, that if I were a die-hard fan I would be angry. Imagine paying top dollar to see this film, knowing full well that the band’s lead singer, Sting, would eventually break them up for a less-than-thrilling solo career, not to mention collaborations with P. Diddy. “Everyone Stares” ends with a true slap in the face: Footage of The Police counting all their cash. Now, along comes Copeland to take more of your money in exchange for an insipid trip down memory lane. Documentaries, especially one about a great band, should never be this way.

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