Documentary Review — “Liam Gallagher: As It Was” charts Oasis singer’s comeback

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It’d be fun to drop in on the tail end of the documentary “Liam Gallagher: As It Was,” having only the Oasis singer’s reputation to go on, his Wikipedia biography to tell you what to expect.

He’s charming in that part of the film — giving, generous, well-adjusted. He’s older, mellower, playing at being the attentive dad to two sons and a daughter he only recently connected with.

He’s said “All I care about is getting the fans back” in the documentary, meaning the massive crowds that embraced Oasis until his brother Noel Gallagher quit the band and broke it up. And as “As It Was” concludes, the fans are indeed, back.

But the rep? “Loutish,” “arrogant,” with the “abrasive bearing” of someone his brother Noel, the guitarist and principal songwriter of Oasis, described as “the angriest man you’ll ever meet.”

His mother, in this documentary about the decade it took for Liam G. to figure it all out again, declares “He never changed. He is who he is.”

His “partner and manager,” is Debbie Gwyther, the Sharon Osbourne to his Ozzy, who helped him turn everything around after the breakup of Oasis, the collapse of Beady Eye, Gallagher’s first post-Oasis band, and the end of his marriage. She admits “He’s impulsive. He swears a lot.” But adds that she knows he has “regrets” about the way he’s treated people, and hurt some.

Sometime after filming was completed, the police were called to investigate a domestic violence incident. But maybe that’s just “the press” which has “never had anything nice to say about him,” as his Mum puts it.

None of which is readily evident in the triumphal finale of “As It Was,” the title a play on his “As You Were” comeback LP. But a great deal of the first act of this flattering, conventional but somewhat shapeless documentary gets all of those personal failings across.

If you know anything at all about the band, chances are you reached the same conclusion as Noel. The guy’s an overbearing, temperamental jerk.

Noel and Liam are still estranged, so the only snippets of Noel in this film are from radio interviews. The feuding siblings can’t stop slagging off on one another. But he’s the only critical voice, here, and that dings the film’s credibility and makes this portrait of a “mellowing” rock legend too much of a promotional film to have much value as biography.

“As It Was” kicks off with snippets of news footage, acting up on airline flights, defensive, hostile interviews at every turn and that fateful night in 2009 when the show no longer went on. It was in Paris, and a backstage fight ended Oasis.

The film is about the singing Gallagher’s long journey from “‘E split me band up!” to “not becoming a f—–g casualty…not letting the bastards win” to the realization that heedlessly charging on after Oasis with Beady Eye (the same Oasis band, sans Noel) wasn’t going to work.

Visiting every pub in Ireland when on break (they’re from Manchester, but Ireland’s where the Guinness is made) wasn’t paying off.

“You stop in for a Guinness. And you know how it is. You never stop at one.”

Acting agrieved wasn’t a good look. “Rumbling on Twitter,” lashing out at one and all wasn’t solving his problems.

“You’re no longer playing giant venues, no longer headlining?”

“Headlining? Been there, done that.  F—–g done with it!”

Brother Paul turns out to be the most reliable witness here, noting the “childlike charm” that comes through, backhandledly hinting at the ways Liam derailed the band, which both brothers have picked at, like a scab, in the decade since.

And there are hints of the character of the man in the ways he attempts to gloss and sugarcoat his image, hiking with his family in California — three kids from different mothers — in between shows, noting how well his now-teen children have turned out.

“The mothers have done great bringing them up!”

The saving grace of “As It Was” is Gallagher’s saving grace as well, that John Lennon-meets-John Lydon voice, the songs he wrote or co-wrote that brought him back from the dead, the album that restored his place in British rock.

The tunes are generously sampled, with snippets of studio sessions and lots of live concert footage that underlines his great talent and stage charisma.

He knows he needs this, needs them. Otherwise, he’d probably not worth the trouble.

The movie? Indulgent and despite following that “Falling from a great height, climbing back up” formula, is all over the place and the sketches of Gallagher it provides seem polished and officially approved. It’s probably for fans only.

2stars1

MPAA Rating: unrated, with alcohol consumption and lots and lots of profanity

Cast: Liam Gallagher, Debbie Gwyther, Peggy Gallagher, Paul Gallagher

Credits: Directed by Gavin Fitzgerald and Charlie Lightening. A Screen Media release.

Running time: 1:28

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