Foo Fighters: Back and Forth

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Foo Fighters: Back and Forth Movie Poster Image
Music docu shows realities of band life; cursing and drugs.
  • NR
  • 2011
  • 140 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

For aspiring musicians, documentary shows the challenges, hard work, and rewards of being in a band at any level, not just the level of success Foo Fighters attained. Music as a form of therapy and catharsis during difficult times. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Dave Grohl is shown to be a hardworking musician who remains humble through the success of Nirvana and Foo Fighters. He freely acknowledges the influence and impact of the more underground musicians who have inspired him over the years. 

Violence

Brief shot of an onstage fight between Foo Fighter Pat Smear with bouncers during a show he played with his old band, The Germs. Talk of and reportage of the suicide of Kurt Cobain. 

Sex
Language

"F--k" frequently used. "S--t," "ass," "hell," "suck." Middle finger gesture. 

Consumerism

Documentary chronicles the Foo Fighters' discography; the footage of the recording process of the latest release at the time the documentary was made feels somewhat like a commercial for that album. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Band is shown drinking shots and performing drunk; talk of drinking too much on tour and the negative impact it had on the performances. Cigarette smoking. Talk of the drummer's struggles with heroin addiction. Talk and reportage from the time of Kurt Cobain going into a drug-induced coma shortly before his suicide; frank discussion from Dave Grohl about his talks with Cobain expressing concern for his drug use. Brief shots of marijuana smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Foo Fighters: Back and Forth is a 2011 documentary about the successful rock band. For aspiring musicians, Dave Grohl's talk of starting the band initially as a home recording project to work through the depression he experienced in the aftermath of fellow Nirvana member Kurt Cobain's suicide, as well as his work ethic and discussion of the ups and downs of band life, should be inspiring and informative. Drug and alcohol use is discussed but not glamorized; there's talk of Cobain's drug-induced coma shortly before his death, and of the Foo Fighters' drummer's struggles with heroin addiction. Frequent use of "f--k" and other profanity. The first half of the movie in particular is an engaging story of the ups and downs, camaraderie and tension, that bands at any level typically experience. 

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What's the story?

In the months after the suicide of Kurt Cobain, Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl was in a state of depression that made it impossible to play or even listen to music. To pull himself out of this depression, he booked six days in a recording studio near his home and recorded an album's worth of songs on which he played all the instruments. He named the project Foo Fighters, and in 1995 recruited the rhythm section of the band Sunny Day Real Estate, as well as second Nirvana guitarist (and guitarist of seminal LA punk band The Germs) Pat Smear to turn the one-man project into a working band. The band toured incessantly, and started to take on a life of its own, separate from Grohl's past ties to Nirvana. FOO FIGHTERS: BACK AND FORTH covers the band's existence from the 1994 solo project through the coming and going (and returning again) of various band members, through the ups and downs, to the heights of success, including a concert in Wembley Stadium. 

Is it any good?

The first half of this documentary is a fascinating glimpse into the ups and downs of band life at any level. The creative process, the work ethic, and the grind of touring are all discussed and revealed through interviews and live band footage. Throughout the documentary, Grohl is shown to be humbled and grateful for the success he has achieved, and is eager to spread the word on the bands and musicians who influenced him over the years, especially the luminaries of the 1980s punk and hard-core underground. That alone is an education for music fans who want to dig deeper than the Foo Fighters' discography.

The second half of Foo Fighters: Back and Forth, however, gives the same feeling one has when reading an autobiography of a 1960s rock star where, upon reaching the 1980s, there are still a couple hundred pages to go. Sure, there are some interesting highlights -- working on a song with Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü, recording again with Nirvana bassist Krist Novaselic, Grohl tearing up and feeling overcome with emotion over the honor of playing at Wembley Stadium -- but overall, success and the various approaches to recording songs in the albums of the mid-2000s to 2011 just isn't as interesting as the struggles shown in the first half. Not to begrudge success, it's just that not as much happens that's especially film-worthy. Which is to be expected when covering 17 years of a musical career, as opposed to the pivotal year covered in the Dylan documentary Don't Look Back, or the as-it-happens ego implosion of early aughts Metallica in Metallica: Some Kind of Monster. Still, especially for the fans of the band, there's enough to enjoy, and for musicians, there's plenty to learn. 

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about music documentaries like Foo Fighters: Back and Forth. What do you see as the appeal of the genre, and why do you think the participants are willing to share their stories, even the more difficult chapters? 

  • How does this movie address drug and alcohol use among rock musicians? Is it glamorized? Preachy? Honest? 

  • The documentary goes to great lengths to convey the punk and hard-core scene of the 1980s from which Grohl got his start -- referencing numerous bands from that era as well as scenes in which Grohl is working with some of those who were a part of that scene. Do you think this backstory was necessary to the documentary, or would it have been just as good if the documentary focused solely on the Foo Fighters' career? 

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