Right off the bat, you need to know that Long Strange Trip is 4-hours long. Watching a 4-hour documentary at the movies is a huge commitment — especially with the film dropping on Amazon Prime in June. That breeds the question: Who exactly is this one movie marathon for? Deadheads will jump at the chance to watch the band’s story play out on the silver screen but that’s only a small portion of moviegoers. Does director Amir Bar-Lev infuse his film with enough entertainment wattage to sustain viewers throughout the 4-hour saga?
Long Strange Trip tracks The Grateful Dead’s improbable rise from a modest group of Bay-area musicians to legendary American rock group and counterculture icons. The film’s first half chronicles key moments throughout the band’s career and the second half focuses on their cultural impact. People close to the band share memorable personal anecdotes that will leave Deadheads grinning ear-to-ear. Even if don’t know Jerry Garcia from Cherry Garcia the doc unravels a tale of sex, drugs, and rock & roll that doesn’t come off as cliché, cloying, or hagiographic. Bar-Lev doesn’t shy away from Garcia’s struggles, specifically his battles with addiction and complicated relationship with fame.
Long Strange Trip is a celebration of The Grateful Dead, Deadheads, and the entire culture surrounding the band. The doc doesn’t scream out for a big screen viewing so if you’re on the fence about watching it you should definitely hold off until next month. But, if you’re looking for a fun watch at Hot Docs then Long Strange Trip is a perfect choice. Long Strange Trip tells an entertaining story that is loaded with fascinating characters and incredible music. Even at 360-minutes long the film breezes by like gentle notes in a Jerry Garcia ballad.
Hot Docs 2017 runs April 27 – May 7. For movies, showtimes, and ticket purchases go to www.hotdocs.ca