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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl is a documentary about a musician/actor who found early success but later struggles to support herself making art. Other than frequent strong language ( "f--k," "f--king," "bitch," "s--t," "ass," "c--t," etc.), there's not much mature content here. There's no mention of sex or nudity (just one scene in which Nash and her drummer display bikini tops patterned to look like bare breasts), and violence is limited to a scene in which Nash describes some of the terrible messages she's received from people who threatened to torture, rape, and kill her in horrifying ways. At one point, Nash nods when asked if she wants "more whiskey" when she's nervous about going onstage, but otherwise alcohol and drugs don't make an appearance. The names of Nash's albums are mentioned frequently, and viewers hear about her role on Netflix's GLOW, but the documentary doesn't have the feel of a crass commercial cash-in. Instead, messages of courage and perseverance are clear in Nash's tireless work to maintain her career and support herself. Overall, she's easy to root for, despite her tendency to spend money too freely and her insistence on seeing herself as someone who doesn't get the breaks that others do.
What's the story?
Made by and about a singer who had a huge hit record early in her career and then struggled to maintain her success, KATE NASH: UNDERESTIMATE THE GIRL focuses on Kate Nash, whose Made of Bricks sold millions of records in 2007 and 2008 on the strength of its hit song "Foundations." But years after the roar of the crowd has died down, Nash is short on cash, was dropped years ago by her record label, and, though she still has fans, can't figure out how to make a living making art. Can an artist once hailed as a unique and powerful new voice find a way to make audiences listen again?
Is it any good?
As a riches-to-rags-to-riches story of an artist who suffers slings and arrows from the music industry yet finds a way to survive, this documentary is meandering yet fitfully charming. Nash's 2007 hit song "Foundations" made her a teenage pop star, but -- as a UK DJ wisely notes -- it's one thing to be a hot new artist and entirely different to expand that flush of interest into an enduring career. As Underestimate the Girl illustrates, Nash wasn't careful with her hit-record money (and the movie implies that the pile was rather impressive -- at least, compared to the small returns musicians earn for putting out records in the era of free streaming), and we watch her flounder while she tries to find her second act.
Nash is a bundle of raw energy who's fascinating to watch; good thing, since what we're given to know of her life is a bit blah. She hemorrhages money on an ill-advised tour, is betrayed by a manager who steals a considerable amount of money (we're never told how much), and moves from London to Los Angeles and back again seeking work acting and songwriting. We meet her dog and her mom and see Nash on two occasions look right down the camera's barrel and admit that she's going to have to figure something out, because at this point she just plain needs money. Of course, viewers who mainly know Nash from her role on Netflix's GLOW will be aware that Underestimate the Girl's star is going to have a reasonably happy ending. It's easy to be glad for Nash after watching her struggle for so long, but it's also a tad underwhelming. Underestimate the Girl sets itself up to be an account of all the wrongs Nash has suffered in a toxic world that doesn't appreciate artists; instead, it winds up as a look at a performer who must labor endlessly to hang on to the fringes of the entertainment industry. It's a worthy account even so -- and, for young artists, a compelling cautionary tale, even if its makers didn't intend it as such.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Kate Nash's career. Which parts look appealing and glamorous to you? Which don't? Would you call her a successful artist? In what areas is her success clear? In which does she struggle? Does making music look like an easy way to make a living?
What's conveyed by the title Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl? Does Nash view herself as having been underestimated? Is she? How? Is this an appropriate title for this movie? If not, what would you name it?
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