NEW YORK | There’s a moment in Post Malone’s new concert film when its star confesses to how surreal his life has become: “Sometimes I feel like I’m not a real person.”
Fans will get no clarity on that astounding statement after watching Amazon’s “Post Malone: Runaway,” a limp, uninspiring 60 minutes of flash with no substance. It’s unreal.
Not only does the bestselling, genre-mixing hitmaker himself not come across as a real person, the film never tries to help him. Fans won’t learn anything new, and the curious may even be turned off.
The documentary captures Post Malone’s first U.S. arena tour in 2019 — a 37-date tour through North America with stops in Los Angeles, Dallas and New York, among others.
The filmmakers — director Hector Dockrill and writers Sam Bridger and Casey Engelhardt — got backstage access without doing anything meaningful with it, ending up more like hype men than independent observers.
“Post Malone: Runaway” is in many ways like an hourlong music video, with some 10 songs — “Take What You Want,” “Wow” and “Rockstar,” among them — captured with shaky, distorted camera angles, interspliced with backstage glad-handing and tons of beer pong. Oh, so much beer pong. It both humanizes Posty but also makes him look like an overage bro holding onto childish things.
There are few moments in the film that show our hero not cradling a cigarette or a Solo cup, a tortured genius who seems perennially tipsy, screaming out his lyrics in a sort of existential crouch onstage and getting angry about beer pong rule violations after shows.
Introspection is not his strong suit. “It’s either you’re with it or you ain’t,” he says. “The songs, I guess, are what they are and I am who I am.” The filmmakers seem happier returning to shots of hysterical fans and seem a little too enamored of the tour’s pyrotechnics.
How is Malone able to create such hits like “Sunflower”? Don’t look here. “It just has a certain vibe and a certain feeling to it that’s rare to come by,” says songwriter Billy Walsh.
The non-Posty interviews consist of superstar guests who stop by backstage — Alicia Keys and Timbaland, among them, and a truly uncomfortable-looking Billie Joe Armstrong. “That was awesome,” the Green Day songwriter says, not entirely convincingly.
Then there are the voices of Malone’s own entourage, including weirdly his bus driver, who are, after all, paid to be excited to be on tour with him. “You can’t deny him any more. He’s real,” says Cheryl Paglierani, his agent. He is real, gotcha.
That brings up the mood of the documentary, which is sort of a grievance tour. There’s a defensiveness to Malone and his team that’s laughably unfounded. He’s portrayed as fighting the impression that he’s a lightweight and not the youngest artist to have three diamond-certified singles or to have broken the record for most simultaneous top 20 Hot 100 Billboard hits. It’s hard to punch up when you’ve sold out Madison Square Garden.
Poor Posty also has to deal with the public glare. He reveals it’s hard going to different cities, getting lit every night and then doing it again the next night. Often he will glare at the very camera trying to capture his greatness: “On tour, you’re surrounded by people every single day. It’s exhausting sometimes,” he says.
His team points out that unlike Elvis or Michael Jackson or Madonna, Malone lives in a time of social media, which sometimes has haters writing that he’s not as good as he imagines. He’s deep in his 20s now. Is he really discovering Twitter is an awful place?
One of the most awkward moments is the appearance of Ozzy Osbourne for “Take What You Want.” Malone seems unable to integrate one of rock’s greatest gods — or even talk to him — and Ozzy is left on stage marooned and manically grinning, just raising his arms up. The torch has not been passed, shall we say.
But there is a figure who does emerge as an intriguing star — and that’s not Malone. It’s Swae Lee, with an ear for melody that stuns even Malone. As for the documentary about the man of the hour, do as the title suggests: Run away.
“Post Malone: Runaway,” an Amazon Studios release, is rated 18+ for drug use and language. Running time: 65 minutes. No stars out of four.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
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