Watched this documentary knowing full well the turn of events: immense talent descends into self-destructive behavior -- booze, drugs -- and dies young. "Who Is Harry Nilsson?" isn't an amazing film portrait but it does provide an entry point to the musical offerings of said raconteur.
Nilsson was probably most well-known as The Beatles' favorite artist in the late 1960's. After the Fab Four had issued many public remarks upping Nilsson's work, Nilsson struck up enduring friendships with Ringo Starr and John Lennon. During different periods, each served as Nilsson's "wingman" when Nilsson would set out on his regular, wild binges. One is struck by what an angelic voice Nilsson possessed yet squandered due to misbehavior. His last wife remembers him with a smile and a laugh, which is lovely to see. What a long-suffering woman!
Another takeaway for me from this film is Nilsson's likeness to a more recent depressive singer-songwriter who flamed out: Elliott Smith. Some of the Nilsson songs presented here reminded me of some of Smith's work. Each man was blessed with a non-traditional rugged handsomeness, so there's a physical comparison to be made as well.
I've tried before with Nilsson; I still don't particularly care for his music. But others certainly do, and I have no doubt that "Who Is Harry Nilsson?" will add numbers to his fanbase.
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