Film Review – Working Class Boy (2018)

Title – Working Class Boy (2018)

Director – Mark Joffe (Spotswood)

Cast – Jimmy Barnes, David Campbell, Ian Moss, Mahalia Barnes

Plot – A documentary of Australian rock legend Jimmy Barnes, that’s inspired by his book and live production of the same name.

“I was born James Dixon Swan. This is the story of how I became Jimmy Barnes”

Review by Eddie on 11/04/2019

His something of a national treasure here in Australia, a beloved public figure that made his mark in legendary local rock band Cold Chisel and then forged a highly successful solo career, but even for non-fans like me (how un-Australian of me), Working Class Boy is an affecting and insightful documentary about the colourful character of Jimmy Barnes that acts as both an intimate insight into his life and a showcase for the songs that have created the backbone of his career.

Based around the stage/music show of the same name and the best-selling novel, Working Class Boy is a warts and all documentary that strips back the curtains on the events that shaped Barnes into the man he is today, who despite entering into his later years as a performer, shows no signs of slowing down.

An immigrant from the slums of Glasgow in Scotland, who grew up in an abusive relationship and an even more dangerous and volatile environment once he moved to Australia, Barnes’s life may not be that far removed from many others around that timeframe but it still takes nothing away from the fact Barnes has overcome more than his fair share of heartache and trauma to create a brilliant and important career in the Australian show business.

In more ways than one its quite a confronting documentary as Barnes recalls some horrific incidents of his youth, while hearing him talk openly about his drug abuse and alcoholism will be tough for some to bare but it’s all part of the parcel for such an intriguing figure.

In Mark Joffe’s documentary Barnes makes for a fascinating and warm-hearted presence, as he openly and honestly talks about his past, present and future and it’s a credit to the renowned figure that he is unafraid to tell it how it is, there’s no signs of sugar-coating here, and as Barnes openly talks about such aspects of his life as addiction and his troubled family life, it’s hard not to be moved and inspired by how he used those elements of his life to craft his material and live a better life.

The other hugely beneficial component to Working Class Boy is how Mark Joffe’s captures the engaging nature of Barnes the performer and as we are given access to his intimate stage shows it’s easy to understand why so many, both far and wide, have followed Barnes on his journey for so many years.

An entertaining story-teller and a commanding presence on stage when singing, sitting back and watching Barnes on stage is like watching a master at work and while his musical musings might not be for everyone, his heartfelt and passionate delivery is hard to ignore.

Final Say –

A must watch for any die-hard Barnes fans, Working Class Boy is a thoroughly entertaining Australian documentary that acts as a great showcase for the life and times of one of our all-time great entertainers, even if its raw and honest nature may catch some off guard.

3 ½ escaped circus lions out of 5

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