Ah, pop music! It’s truly the sounds that make our world go ‘round, and, as one curiously middle-aged man remarks in this stellar documentary exploring the life and music of Rick Springfield, there are indeed ‘perfect pop songs’ that can’t quite be replicated. Oh, clearly pop performers come and go, but rarely does a pop song so define an age, an era, an experience except one with a perfect rhythm, a perfect chorus, and a perfect production. Such is the case in “Jessie’s Girl,” one of Springfield’s signature pop anthems that examines true love so very close but also immeasurably out of one’s reach.
Yes, the song – along with others, of course – certainly goes a long way toward defining music of the 1980’s, but, to another degree, it goes an even longer way toward defining the man, his music, and his legion of fans. The Rickster happily participated with this project, and it’s a winner. A knock-out. A home run. He ignored his best sung advice – “Don’t Talk to Strangers” – and, in doing so, he went a long way toward changing not only his own world but also the worlds of countless others.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
I, myself, have had the chance to enjoy Rick Springfield in concerts a handful of times, and I’ve always come away with one over-riding impression (beyond enjoying the music): the man certainly loves performing to an audience of fans. As a performer, he goes to great lengths to ‘infect’ the crowd with his innocuous charm and skill, and I’ve yet to see him fail in that regard. There are some staples to the show – he’ll bring fans up on stage to help him in providing the entertainment; he’ll at some point venture (with guards) into the crowd to offer those seated up close an even more up-close view; he’ll destroy a dozen bouquet of roses with a signature guitar riffing; etc. – but it’s clearly all done with an emphasis of delivering his fans with a singular experience.
To my delight, there’s plenty more to Rick Springfield worth knowing about beyond the performer. In AN AFFAIR OF THE HEART, he comes clean about how he in the past kind of held his fandom in a kind of snobbish disdain, believing they never really understood him or the messages that his music had to offer. He eventually came to grips with fame – after taking about a decade off from it – and it was only then that he found a measure of acceptance for what his role in the lives of those fans really meant. And also he recounts the stories – and there are indeed many of them – of how he’s embraced fans from around the world in ways that legitimately transcend ‘celebrity’ by way of being vastly more ‘human’ than other performers of his era.
AFFAIR goes to great lengths to dispel the myths of Springfield being merely a ‘pop icon’ (that he has come to terms with the fact that he still is one) and, instead, peels back the layers of glitz and paparazzi that conceal the man behind the mask. In between some truly heart-warming tales with fans who’ve also affected his life, he frankly discusses music, his family, his struggles with infidelity and depression, and just about anything else he can squeeze into the 90 minute documentary.
Much like one of his contagious pop/rock tunes, AFFAIR draws the viewer in with an almost effortless grace. In fact, it’s no wonder that the film has been the recipient of tremendous accolades on the film festival circuit. It was the winner of the 2012 Nashville (Special Jury Prize – Gibson Impact of Music), Boston (Best Music), Florida (Special Jury Award – Outstanding Direction), and Sidewalk (Editing) Film Festivals; as well as being an Official Selection of the HotDocs Outspoken Outstanding and the IDFA.
AN AFFAIR OF THE HEART (2012) is produced by Yellow Rick Road Productions, Dolger Films, and Doverwood Communications. DVD distribution is being handled through Breaking Glass Pictures. As for the technical specifications, no expense was spared in bringing the best quality sight and sounds to this documentary, though there are a few sequences of understandable grain involving older-style home movies being incorporated into the ongoing story. (Rest assured: it’s not a distraction.) This is a two-disc release, and all of the special features are included on the 2nd disc: there are extended scenes, bonus interviews, and footage from the film’s premiere. It’s a terrific package for fans – a living, breathing valentine to anyone who fell in love with “Jessie’s Girl.”
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. Funny, touching, and delightful, AN AFFAIR OF THE HEART is an affair worth the experience. It’s one thing to BE a pop star; it’s another thing to experience the wacky, rollercoaster ride that is a pop star’s life. Rick Springfield pulls back the curtain, and, in doing so, gives a command performance alongside that of his one true love – his fans – in a frank and personal way. Bravo to all involved.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Breaking Glass Pictures provided me with a DVD copy of AN AFFAIR OF THE HEART by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.