Film Reviews

Film Review: Kate Nash - Underestimate The Girl (USA) 2018

Clare Martin

Auckland’s own Doc Edge Documentary Film Festival presents work that can engage, provoke, inform and extend their viewers... if the viewers choose to attend. In this day of the saturation of entertainment cinema, why attend documentaries? Perhaps because there is a true opportunity to peek into another life, another world? Perhaps because you will see something real that will completely replace an over-romanticised, media-driven construction of music?

Perhaps the most romantic view is of that of the female pop artist. More than any other industry, an audience is sold a particularly sugar-frosted view of women artists in music. These images are smoke and mirrors to sell albums.

This documentary portrait of Kate Nash succeeds in the same way Nash’s music succeeds - with honesty and gumption. Her first pop album with brash rhythmic London accent and catchy hooks grabbed the youth audience with its confessional lyrics. Almost plagued by the popularity of her most popular song Foundation from that first album, Nash went from Brit-pop goddess to label outcast with her third punkier album Girl Talk. In Nash’s words “female isn’t a genre”, yes, what a brilliant take-home line, listen up out there, please.

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... figuring out how to make money from music is a real art

Anyone who is interested in music should see this film. This is a picture of how an artist rides the trajectory of glory to the confronting grit of selling her own clothes to pay the rent. In a space where cute girls make money but mouthiness does not, the film portrays a decade of behind-the-scenes reality.

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From the MySpace of the 2000 years via the hard knock ‘world of wankers’, Nash has done the work - “I didn’t have a day off in two years”. Here is a real picture of the life of a music artist, “figuring out how to make money from music is a real art”.

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The film dodges platforming. But still, there are lines that make powerful statements “as a woman you can’t even scream on an album. As a guy you can sing ‘fuck you bitches’ and it sells records”.

The filming is a skilful mix of handheld phone camera work, video blogging and film camera work. And stamina. Director Amy Goldstein gambled on being able to follow Nash over such a long period of time, there were no guarantees the hours of film work would reach the light of day.

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The documentary does get a bit lost in the amorphous world of the US music business - Kate making an advert for face wash, Kate in studios pounding out jingles, Kate’s dog and her flat and her friends. But we are brought full circle to land in a satisfactory story-telling fashion.

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Go see - This is the real stuff.

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Enjoy this film at the Doc Edge Documentary Film Festival, Auckland from 30 May to 9 June 2019 or Wellington, from 13 June to 23 June.

Buy tickets here.

Written By: Clare Martin Clare has performed as an opera, recital and oratorio artist in UK most notably the Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank, London. In NZ she has performed with NZ Opera and with the NZ Symphony Orchestra but more recently she has moved into a wider range of contemporary genres including jazz and even Leonard Cohen. Since 2008 Clare has been teaching from her own music studio working with professional and beginner singers. In 2017 she was a mentor on TVNZ’s The Naked Choir working with a cappella choirs and she currently coaches barbershop and a woman’s ensemble.