HAY’S PERSONALITY SPICES UP MUSIC DOC BUSINESS AS USUAL
Colin Hay: Waiting For My Real Life
Review by Paul Preston
One thing that can be overlooked when reflecting on the 1980s is how great some of the musicians were. Too much talk can be focused on the hair spray, the neon clothing, makeup and piling-on of bracelets, but make no mistake some real singer/songwriters were doing great work in the middle of it all. One of them is Men at Work’s Colin Hay, for a time now quite deserving of a documentary, if for no other reason than to give us all a reason to hang out with him for an hour and a half.
Hay’s sense of humor and keen storytelling ability have made him a unique attraction on the music scene in the last couple of decades, and the new doc Colin Hay: Waiting For My Real Life captures those best parts about him, and puts them on display for an engaging career retrospective.
There’s plenty to learn about Hay. For one, he’s Scottish. All this singing about “Down Under”, who knew? But Hay moved to Australia when he was very young, and all the gregariousness of both of those cultures serve to make him a charming leading man for a group. Hay’s influences, early band attempts and family dynamics are explored, and things kick into high gear when Men at Work is formed. Like most bands, they just needed that one push over the top and for them it came in the form of opening for the likes of The Clash and Fleetwood Mac (Mick Fleetwood is interviewed here).
The musical biopic will devolve into all-too-well-worn tropes – you know the deal: success, breakup, drugs, infidelity, resurrection (Ray) or death (I Saw the Light). The downside to these movies is realizing that the guy you admired, perhaps for decades (Hank Williams, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, James Brown) was really an asshole. The musical doc feels it has to hit similar marker points, too, made nearly comical by VH1’s Behind the Music series (“And that’s when…it all fell apart). It’s gotten to where you just expect it and sure enough Waiting For My Real Life hits those now-stereotypical musician’s life marker points. I suppose if it really happened, the doc needs to reflect it. But when Hay talks of his retreat into drugs, you do want to slap him ‘cause he comes off as such a great guy and talented artist, everyone but him had to know that was beneath him (especially in the wake of a major songwriting lawsuit I heard of for the first time through this movie).
Men at Work was only around for three albums. Seemed longer, but their eventual break-up led to a solo career for Hay that never took off. Which makes Hay’s resonance as an artist today truly stunning. There are plenty of artists who have just faded away, but Hay kept singing about his truth and has now managed a club singer career where he, his guitar and stories for days hold sold-out crowds all the time. Part of his redemption comes in the form of Cecilia Noel, his new wife, a Peruvian singer, free-spirit and ball of positivity who comes off as Hay’s anti-Yoko. She came around after the band broke up and seems to have instilled nothing but positivity in her man and those around him.
Partially unnecessary but entertaining nonetheless are notable Aussies Hugh Jackman and Guy Pearce, who talk of Hay’s renaissance, again, celebrity testimonials probably crossing off a checklist of music documentary requirements. But it doesn’t matter how rudimentary the doc gets in parts, Hay’s personality and demeanor transcends it all.
The music industry certainly doesn’t reflect real life. The title (and name of one of his songs) suggests it’s a distraction until he can get on with the real part of his life, which Hay is loving now, as he’s still touring (two shows at Largo in L.A. March 1st & 2nd). This singer/songwriter angle of his is his best musical offering since Men at Work, and if you don’t know about it, it’s worth discovering through this doc.
Directed by: Aaron Faulls & Nate Gowtham
Release Date: December 16, 2016
Run Time: 84 Minutes
Distributor: TriCoast Worldwide