Toronto International Film Festival 2021 Review: Jagged

Written by Maria Athayde

*No Rating/100

How do you review or critique a documentary that has been publicly disavowed by its main subject? This was my biggest challenge when it comes to this review. As soon as I finished watching what I thought was an okay documentary I was alerted, by my editor, Taylor Baker, to this article on the LA Times in which Alanis Morissette decries Jagged as a story she did not agree to tell. Alanis states that she “was lulled into a false sense of security and their salacious agenda became apparent immediately upon my seeing the first cut of the film”. 

As far as documentaries go this one is pretty standard. The documentary starts with an introduction from director Alison Klayman saying how making this feature was making her middle school dreams become a reality but she does not elaborate further on her connection to Alanis or her music. After this brief introduction, we are presented with a standard documentary montage that traces Alanis birth in Ottawa, Canada, her rise to fame, and explosion into stardom which coincided with the release of her third studio album Jagged Little Pill (JLP) in 1995. Sprinkled throughout we have testimony from high school friends, music producers, and band-mates reminiscing about their time together on tour and commemorating the 25th anniversary of the album’s release.

Toronto International Film Festival 2021

My biggest qualm with this documentary was how certain aspects of Alanis’ life and career were glossed over. During her on camera interviews, during several occasions, Alanis mentioned how the transition from Ottawa to Los Angeles and the challenges that came along with. What we see on screen seems to suggest that this move affected her deeply. Yet simultaneously what we’re seeing on camera does not go into a lot of detail. Alanis mentioned how she was pressured to lose weight, maintain a certain image, and she even references alleged statutory rape incidents when she was around 15. All these things are presented without much context and what we see on camera does not allow Alanis to fully explain her own story or how these incidents impacted her life and career. Another issue I had was the complete lack of detail paid to the impact Alanis had and continues to have on female artists in the music industry. Aside from 45 seconds where we see Taylor Swift and Beyoncé performing some of Alanis’ songs, her impact in the industry especially for female artists is almost entirely forgotten.     

Documentaries are supposed to be personal but I have a hard time reconciling how this feature is supposed to work after being publicly disavowed by its main subject. All the statements I have read so far do not go into detail into how Alanis’ story diverges from what we see on screen. At the time this article was published no comment has been made by the film’s director or producers regarding these differences. In the end, I wish the doc had explored more than just JLP. I understand it’s supposed to be a commemoration of the 25th edition of the album but it could have been so much more nuanced and painted a fuller picture of what Alanis is all about. Most of all I support artists having a say on how their story is presented. I cautiously recommend that you watch this documentary and read supporting material to have a better understanding of the controversy surrounding the film. 

Cautiously Recommended

HBO’s Music Box Trailer

Jagged was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

Bastards’ Road

Written by Taylor Baker

77/100

While Bastards’ Road lacks a formal dazzle, it’s footage seems to contain the marrow of America. Jonathan Hancock walks 5,800 miles around the United States as a way of coping with his feelings after the experiences of his deployment in Ramadi. His unit the 2nd Battalion 4th Marines, are equally challenged by their experiences overseas. Jonathan ventures on foot, from one Marine’s home, to another. Across state lines, and through challenging weather conditions. There is footage of him singing Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’ before recounting a story of meeting a family of skunks, as well as him looking directly into his phone camera explaining how he happened on a handgun and doesn’t want to touch it since he’s essentially a transient.

The footage consists largely of standard shots, a man walking down a road, an interview subject sitting in their home recounting a story, and lot’s of cellphone footage wherein Jonathan is recording a sort of diary shot vertically. There’s also a collection of landscape shots that could be directly lifted off the Discovery Channel or History Channel. I often thought the footage reminded me of American Pickers. The beauty of the film is it’s story, and like the men it’s about it’s not particularly sleek or new. It’s sturdy, reliable, and enough to complete the job. Watching Jonathan cry with Caleb Power’s family over his pickup truck, or watching him try to spend time with one of his friends’ young daughters is equally affecting.

Bastards’ Road Trailer

Bastards’ Road comes out on May 11th and will be available to rent or purchase on most major platforms.