BOB MARLEY: ONE LOVE Never Completely Stirs Up Passion For Its Subject

To borrow a hilarious quote from the musical artist’s biopic spoof, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, “Dewey Cox has to think about his entire life before he plays.” Well, apparently, so did Bob Marley, or at least that is how this cinematic biopic of the legendary Reggae artist portrays it. To clarify why I am making this comparison, musical artist biopics have, way too often, fallen into the same clichés and tropes to the point where they have become the source of comedic fodder. Unfortunately, the filmmakers behind Bob Marley: One Love have chosen to use some of these tropes and have made other poor decisions.

That is not to say that this movie is absolutely terrible because it isn’t. The story of Bob Marley, his illustrious musical career, and the impact he has had globally, is for sure a riveting and intriguing one. From his humble beginnings in Jamaica to his great success as a Reggae icon, Marley’s life is one for the ages. Unfortunately, the writers of this movie, and in some ways, the director, have chosen a lackluster approach to what should be a beautiful tribute to a gifted and passionate superstar.

Kingsley Ben-Adir stars as the adult version of Bob Marley. The movie mainly focuses on Marley’s career as an artist and his music’s impact on his home of Jamaica, and eventually the world. However, it would take both time and changes for all of the people in Jamaica to appreciate Marley’s messages of love and peace. Bob emerged at a very tumultuous time of civil war on his beloved island, and this violence would eventually affect him and some of his closest loved ones, including his wife Rita (Lashana Lynch).

This attack on him and Rita forces Marley and the crew to escape Jamaica. They relocate to England where they remain in exile temporarily. While there, Marley and his group, The Wailers, continue honing their sound to create some of their most magical music. As their success grows, so follows some of the usual trapping of stardom, as Marley would party a little harder and make some choices that jeopardize his marriage.

As I stated previously, this is not an absolute abomination of a film. Marley’s true story provides material to keep the movie afloat, with Ben-Adir and Lynch giving impassioned performances as their iconic lead characters. Director Reinaldo Marcus Green does a solid job of helming this movie and works with some outstanding talents, such as Robert Elswit on cinematography and Pamela Martin on editing, as well as superb design, costume, and makeup crew members. These filmmakers do impressive work immersing the audience in the eras covered by the movie.

The screenplay by Terrence Winter, Frank E. Flowers, Zach Baylin, and Reinaldo Marcus Green has its moments. However, including tiresome and laughable cliches and its by-the-numbers approach to the material does a disservice to Marley’s legacy. As someone who has seen an excellent documentary about the artist (Kevin Macdonald’s Marley) and various other television programs detailing his life and career, I didn’t learn anything new about him through this biopic.

Now granted, only some people are as knowledgeable about Bob Marley, and this movie should be more informative for those audience members. However, if asked for my recommendations, I recommend reading a highly-rated biography or watching the documentary I mentioned. Bob Marley: One Love is an average biopic that adequately tells Marley’s story, but it should’ve been way better. Anyone who has watched Walk Hard, and share my admiratiion for Bob Marley will understand precisely what I mean.

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