Blue October burst into the public consciousness when their song “Calling You” was used in the 2003 film American Wedding. Of course, like all bands, this success was not overnight, as they formed in 1995. But, things were looking up, as they re-signed with Universal Music after being dropped a few years earlier, and would go on to release their biggest singles and album Foiled. Beneath all this though, lead singer/ frontman Justin Furstenfeld was dealing with mental health issues, which would lead to drug use… which led to even more drug use.
Director Norry Niven captures all of the highs, lows, near-death experiences, torment, and the road to recovery in intimate and powerful detail in Get Back Up. Before we go much further, allow me to interject: I love Blue October. Easily in my top five favorite bands of all time and if you’ve never heard the heartbreaking duet with Imogen Heap, “Congratulations,” please do so as soon as possible. You’ll thank me if you are not too busy tearing up, that is. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to review this documentary and was not disappointed.
“Blue October…frontman Justin Furstenfeld was dealing with mental health issues, which would lead to drug use…”
The rise and fall of rock bands have been chronicled for, seemingly, forever to the point that Mark Wahlberg starred in the non-starter of a film simply titled Rock Star; which one would be forgiven for thinking was meant to be a satirical take on such, but it wasn’t. So, the copious drug use and (almost) dissolution of the band, or individual members having had enough and quitting, are expected. Sure enough, those beats are present here too. But Niven smartly pars downs the scope of the film to not really be the history of Blue October, but the personal journey of Justin Furstenfeld and how he came to confront his demons head-on.
After a performance with his high school band left the other members’ parents enraged, Justin quit The Last Wish. His parents got worried about his mental health, justifiably so, as he was a cutter. They tried and continue to try to do right by him and his problems. Writing songs and playing music allowed Justin to get out these demons, to some degree, at least. Not too long after the whole Last Wish debacle, Justin teamed up with string instrument virtuoso Ryan Delahoussaye, and they formed Blue October. Justin’s brother, Jeremy, would hang around during the band’s practices and eventually became their drummer, despite not knowing much about the instrument at that time.
"…fans of the band will adore this, and I suspect those who are not will as well."
I was amazed by the documentary. I am not a professional “reviewer” or “critic” and know nothing about the business/logistics – but I AM a member of “the AUDIENCE” – and “success” or “failure” is always tracked in some way and clearing reflects the majority of “the Audience” (a huge diverse group of clueless viewers) agree on what is bad, ok, good, great (based solely on how it made us feel). “Get Back Up” has already been determined to be “great” by the majority of the Audience (and continues to from what I have read or heard). It drew us in, got our attention and never let it go (which is a huge challenge for documentaries), the MAJORITY of the audience in some way related to it because it was so authentic, and it made us FEEL! If not, there would not have been so many people buying it because “everybody says it’s good” or putting it into your DVD when friends come over and saying things like “oh you have to watch this even though you’re a pop/country/classical music lover – it’s great.” And that is what is happening. I have no doubt it would make the “TOP 10 TODAY” thing that Netflix does.I hope someone who has the ability to get it in a popular streaming product like Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. is smart enough to make it happen. Norry Niven gave “the Audience” what at a 1st brief glance seems like one of the common average musician/band “behind the scenes” type shows that are shown all of the time on the various “music channels” on standard cable tv; however, it doesn’t take but a few minutes to become engrossed in the OPPOSITE of those cookie-cutter shows – a compelling emotional story of which the Audience is a part of since it is a deep look into humanity and all of the hopes, dreams, ambitions, successes, failures, bad luck, bad choices, good luck, good choices, hardships, hard work, happiness, disappointments, anger, frustration, self-hatred, lies, the good & bad of all of the human relationships, family, moms, dads, siblings, friends, co-workers, lovers, spouses, kids – as well as huge human issues that are sadly more common than many of us realize – but by far the BEST is it is an honest reflection of how we all can choose courage, strength, empathy, forgiveness, determination, perseverance, support, belief, and LOVE!
A breathtaking and completely transparent journey. I’ve always adored Justin, but I’m so proud of him for everything he’s overcome 1 day at a time. And so thankful he has such an amazing group of people that loves him to push him in the right direction. Job well done Boys!
I loved it. But I do agree a lot was left out (maybe it’s way too personal for him to share yet). I would like to have seen more about his story with Blue and his battle to get her. (But then again maybe it’s something he doesn’t want Blue exposed to yet at her young age. I would love to see more of his struggle to remain sober. (You can tell an addict it’s me n your family or the drugs) that’s a difficult choice if he truly wasn’t ready. I really felt heartache for Jeremy when he teared up and when Justin did it got mine rolling. Would like to have seen a more in depth interview with Ryan and Will. Learnt a lot about Justin that was really happening to him. And love he choose life. Also more about Sarah and her support for him. Bc I know 1st hand loving an addict is difficult and trying to be supportive of them is exhausting. Would really love to see a part 2 of his sober years leading him to peace and happiness with himself and life now. Documentary aside Justin is very supportive and honest with his fans. He advocates for mental illness and I just love his step recovery work on Tuesdays. Bc it’s not only drug and alcohol related but mental illness as well. Those 1 hour with him on Tuesday does more for me than my personal counselor.