Girlpool: Things Are OK (Documentary Review, Stream)
by Steven Spoerl
Over the course of the past few months, there have been hints towards this site expanding its coverage in new directions. One of those will be an emphasis on film and film coverage, much of which may branch away from things with a decidedly musical pull- but it’d just feel wrong to not use one of those films as a starting point. Since 2015’s started there h, ave been three outstanding music documentaries, the short-form Pops Staples “Don’t Lose This”, the monumentally affirming Richard Gin-directed long-player The Epoch Is __., and the Cory McConnell-helmed piece of magic that gets tonight’s feature: Girlpool: Things Are OK. All three are deserving of as much attention and affection as anyone can generate but what sets Things Are OK apart from the rest of its early-year companions is its sense of craft.
As central figures go, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Lebel-Tividad are inherently compelling central figures. When they’re on screen (which is for the majority of the film), they’re as brashly honest as their music suggests, never shying away from self-examination or pointed commentary. McConnell likely had a lot of great material to work with and the fact that Things Are OK wound up coming across as so complete in just over 25 minutes is a fairly astonishing indicator of the director’s raw talent and deft touch (especially in terms of composition). Utilizing small ambient movements for maximum effect, like creating a sense of urgency with the travel shots to establish the momentum of both the film and its compassionately-portrayed subjects, McConnell manages to turn this into a subtle filmmaking showcase without ever impeding the film’s central aim: to provide a definitive portrait of an incredibly important band in the early stages of their career.
While the majority of the film is composed of the band’s genuinely stunning live performance, when it allows itself to switch gears to provide those performances a narrative by presenting an exacting portrayal of Tucker and Lebel-Tividad’s psyches, it takes on an unexpectedly emotional pull. Girlpool, at their very best, cut to the hearts of their listeners with exacting precision, conjuring up some fierce emotions (in a manner not too dissimilar from Big Star at their most devastatingly vulnerable). It’s one of the core reasons why this site continues to loft praise at the band and it’s something that Things Are OK manages to make a focal point without ever overselling that particular aspect of the band. It’s also worth noting that Things Are OK chooses its vantage points carefully, allowing a cautiously brave elevation of Girlpool through cleverly-constructed cinematography (which is consistently gorgeous throughout the film’s duration), until they finally appear larger-than-life in their last performance, offering nothing but grace notes until the film’s quiet conclusion. It’s a fitting tribute to the duo, who continue to impress, deeply, as their career progressively blooms into something that’s already threatening to be unforgettable.
Watch Girlpool: Things Are OK below and buy their powerful self-titled EP from Wichita Recordings here.