Sundance 2020: The Go-Go’s

A still from The Go-Go’s by Alison Ellwood, an official selection of the Documentary Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Paul Natkin.

It’s a blast to the past as Showtime presents a documentary about The Go-Go’s, one of the most successful all-female bands of all time.

“We’ve Got The Beat.”  “Our Lips Are Sealed.”  The list of hits goes on and on.  What may be the most surprising piece of information in watching this documentary is that the band is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  How is it that one of the most successful all-female bands of all time isn’t in the Hall of Fame?  This makes no sense!  Unfortunately, Alison Ellwood’s documentary doesn’t give much time to a worthy discussion.  Instead, we get a documentary that focuses on the origin story.  There’s honestly nothing wrong with this as the film ultimately makes a case for their inclusion in the Hall of Fame.

Even if you’re familiar with their music, The Go-Go’s will still prove to be an educational film.  While some of their biggest hits are considered to be pop songs, they originated in the punk movement.  When they came around, they became the first to not only play their instruments but also write their own music.  In doing so, they would break new barriers when their debut album reached #1 on the charts for six weeks.  No other band in history could make such a claim because The Go-Go’s were the first to do so.  And yet, they aren’t even in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?!?

Before the digital era, it was all about going on tour to promote an album.  In some ways, this is very much still the case.  But back then?  The process seemed to be never-ending.  If you weren’t in the studio recording an album, you were out on the road performing your last one.  It gets tiresome without freshening up the routine.

Ellwood’s documentary features a nice mix of modern interviews combined with archival footage.  It’s through the interviews that we get a sense of why they came together and why they ultimately broke up.  Weaving in the footage is the way to go for this particular documentary.  While the band broke up, they ultimately got back together.  In fact, they’re working on a song at the end of the film.

If you only know them by their music, the film digs deep into their history.  Who had musical training before the band was formed?  Which band members had to learn things on the fly?  Viewers will get answers to burning questions.

Even if they aren’t there yet, The Go-Go’s dives into the band’s history while also making a case for inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

DIRECTOR:  Alison Ellwood
FEATURING:  Charlotte Caffey, Belinda Carlisle, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine, Jane Wiedlin, Elissa Bello, Margot Olavarria, Ginger Canzoneri

The Go-Go’s held its world premiere during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the Documentary Premieres program. Showtime will air at a later date. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.