Tribeca Film Festival 2020
Oscar-Winning Director Mike Figgis Shines a Spotlight on Rolling Stones Guitarist
It’s been quite a run the last couple of years of documentaries about non-Mick and non-Keith members of the Rolling Stones. Last year there was The Quiet One, about former bass player Ron Wyman, and also Rolling Stone: Life and Death of Brian Jones, about the Stones guitarist who died in 1969.
Now we have Somebody Up There Likes Me, a new doc about the Stones’ Ronnie Wood. The new doc, directed by Leaving Las Vegas‘ Mike Figgis, features interviews with the five-decade Stones member, telling stories from his long career.
Is it the most illuminating rock doc? Not really, nor does it move very far afield from any conventions of the genre. But the film represents an affecting portrayal of a mainstay of rock who many watching likely don’t know a lot about.
Somebody Up There Likes Me, which runs for just 71 minutes, debuted last fall at the London Film Festival and was to screen at Tribeca this spring prior to that festival’s postponement. The film is streaming on the festival’s press-and-industry portal.
Old SNL buffs might remember Mike Myers playing Wood as boozing, incoherent talk show host. Wood, now sounding a great deal more articulate than he once did, spends some time in the doc riffing on his history of addiction and eventual sobriety, as well as the surgery that cost him part of his lung.
It’s a frequent punchline that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards will outlive us all- and the 76-year-old Mick fathered his eighth child, four years ago! But don’t sleep on Ronnie- a former smoker of 25-30 cigarettes a day, the 72-year-old guitarist and harmonica player tells the camera that “somebody up there likes me- and somebody down there does, too.”
But isn’t like the David Crosby documentary last year, which had Crosby expressing heartfelt regret about the way he’d pissed away a lifetime’s worth of friendships, and that he was likely looking at pending mortality, way too soon to do anything about it.
Wood, for all he’s been through, seems to mostly be a happy guy at this point in his life, who remains on reasonably good terms with his bandmates, with whom he participated in the “Together at Home” telethon last week.
Wood, who joined the Stones in 1975, had previously played with the Jeff Beck Group, Creation, and The Faces, and he shares stories from all of those groups. For The Faces, Wood co-wrote their big single “Ooh La La,” known from numerous commercials as well as the end of Wes Anderson’s Rushmore (Wood sings it in the movie.) There’s plenty of music in the documentary, including Wood sitting in the interview room with his guitar, and also quite a bit few archival performances.
The documentary has also assembled quite a roster of A-list talking heads, including Rod Stewart, Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger, although they’re not exactly telling stories that are memorable or groundbreaking.
Ultimately, Somebody Up There Likes Me is at its best when Wood is simply sitting there with his guitar, singing.
Editor’s Note: In the wake of the postponement this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, Goomba Stomp is reviewing select fest entries that elected to premiere digitally for critics.