Jimmy Barnes in a scene from Working Class Boy.
Jimmy Barnes in a scene from Working Class Boy.

MOVIE REVIEW: Barnesy bio is like no music doco you’ve seen

MOVING, confronting and yet, a distinct pleasure to watch, the fine Australian-made documentary Working Class Boy examines two disarmingly vivid subjects for the price of one.

The first is the Jimmy Barnes you thought you knew.

It may pay to take one last long look at him, for he won't be passing this way again.

The second is the real Jimmy Barnes, someone that the man himself has only recently gotten to know, and is still coming to terms with.




Take a look at the real Jimmy Barnes.
Take a look at the real Jimmy Barnes.

If you fell under the spell of the legendary singer's award-winning debut book of the same name (a raw memoir of dual hardscrabble upbringings in inner-city Glasgow and outer-suburban Adelaide), then you will be relieved to learn the same stormy lightning has been captured in a bottle by the documentary incarnation of Working Class Boy.

As for those of us with no inkling of what Barnes went through as a child, rest assured you will be riveted as you wonder how he ever made it to adulthood in one piece.

It should be put on record that this is not a music documentary, or at least not in the conventional sense.

Those coming along expecting the peaks and valleys of Barnes' long career on stage and in the studio to be charted in minute detail will find themselves at the wrong movie.

The approach taken here is one that prizes a focus on the personal experience over professional achievement, and it is this unsparing willingness to revisit some very painful and poignant memories for Barnes that is Working Class Boy's chief calling card.

This is not to say Barnes' relationship to music is given short shrift to any problematic degree.

In fact, the long journey from self-preservation to self-discovery chronicled here does clearly mirror his evolution as an artist.

The Jimmy Barnes of the Cold Chisel era and the first phase of his solo career sang with a force and a fury intended to keep the world at bay.

The Jimmy Barnes who later went on to embrace his long love of soul, rhythm and blues, and other deep pockets of music now sings to invite the world to come to him.

While there is a collection of flattish live performance interludes in Working Class Boy that sometimes interrupt what is often quite a powerful flow, Barnes and his healthily honest take on a troubled past will take you to a better place and leave you there.



Rating: Four stars (4 out of 5)

Director: Mark Joffe (documentary debut)

Starring: Jimmy Barnes, Jane Mahoney, Mahalia Barnes, Don Walker, Ian Moss

Inside a loud voice, a faint cry for help

Meghan, Harry ‘struggling to cope’ in LA

Meghan, Harry ‘struggling to cope’ in LA

Dream of a blissful new life has quickly turned into a nightmare

Fresh confusion over virus 'detention'

Fresh confusion over virus 'detention'

Thousands of Melbourne public housing residents have been provided with "detention...

Man in iconic 9/11 photo dies from virus

Man in iconic 9/11 photo dies from virus

This man miraculously survived the 9/11 terror attacks