Published Apr 03, 2015With the exception of Metallica's Some Kind of Monster, no music doc exposes the person behind the artist like I'll Be Me. Following country music legend Glen Campbell on his Goodbye tour, it documents the Rhinestone Cowboy's public battle with Alzheimer's, laying bare the ravaging effects the disease has on its victims and the friends and family around them.
Campbell announced that he had the disease just as he embarked on a tour to support his 61st album, Ghost on the Canvas. From the tour's rehearsals, it's unclear if Campbell will be able to perform, but night after night he manages to (mostly) pull it off, even while he remains unable to find the bathroom in his own home.
Supporting him through it all is his loving fourth wife, Kim, and their three children, who also make up a sizeable portion of his backing band. Their unwavering support allows Campbell to continue to perform, something that even his doctors admit is helping him keep his wits (not to mention his endlessly sunny disposition and sense of humour) about him.
Yet the film doesn't pull punches, showing the star mentally lost, a shell of the man he once was, even on stage. The difference is immediately noticeable during regular show opener "Gentle on My Mind." By the tour's end, 151 dates later, he is missing vocal cues, rambling into the mic and noodling on his guitar. The loss of his ability to perform is a blow to both Campbell and his family. His daughter, Ashley, called the tour "the time of [her] life."
Director James Keach pulled a treasure trove of archival material that he peppers in amongst contemporary footage. Campbell has a fascinating backstory — a member of the legendary Wrecking Crew, he was a touring member of the Beach Boys for many years, hosted his own TV show and even dipped his toe into acting — that is a little bit glossed over here. A bit of a deeper dive into the singer's history would serve music fans with only a cursory knowledge of his past well, but the star power of the talking heads employed to sing Campbell's praises — Bono, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton to name a few — speak volumes about his lasting influence and cover the bases well enough.
Though visually plain, I'll Be Me is a surprisingly moving portrait of an artist simultaneously at his most powerful and vulnerable.