SXSW '11 Review: Bob and the Monster

· Joanthan Poritsky

Behind the Music” meets “Intervention” in Keirda Bahruth’s phenomenal documentary Bob and the Monster. It tells the story of Bob Forrest, onetime frontman for L.A. post-punk mainstay Thelonious Monster, whose experiences as a drug addict have led him to become an addiction counselor. Bahruth masterfully uses archival footage, home movies, photographs, staged sequences and animation to tell the epic tale that is Forrest’s life.

The story is one you’ve heard a million times. A rock star from humble beginnings falls into a pile of csh and blows it on heroin and other drugs, eventually bottoming out and either dying or living a meager existence. What sets Forrest’s tale apart is how he has come to recognize why he was doing drugs and why the addiction landscape has changed so much in the past few decades. He explains it best by admitting he once thought Charles Bukowski would have been nothing without alcohol, but the truth is that he would still have been Charles Bukowski.

Forrest’s life story, outside of his dealings in addiction, is fascinating enough. I don’t want to give too much of it away, but his childhood experience was mostly ideal, until it wasn’t, and that’s about when he fell into drugs. This point comes out organically and after we have already come to understand who he is as a person.

The film briefly goes into the issues of clinical addiction, the concept that drugs will help you kick drugs. Forrest quips that if someone comes to him on a prescription addiction drug, he tells them to go back on heroin for a month because it’s easier to get them to kick it. Unconventional, sure, but Forrest rails against the addiction treatment industry. At the film’s conclusion, he opens his own clinic where he can use the new methods he has studied. Dr. Drew Pinsky, a recurring character in the film, serves as a consultant to the practice.

Bahruth spent over 6 years making Bob and the Monster and her passion shines through in every frame. It is a lovely character study, but it is also a rock- doc. It is touching, funny and full of some great music. If it ever comes to your town, it is absolutely worth a look or two.