It's So Easy

The 1980s were the last decade when rock and roll, real rock and roll, was still dangerous as all hell. Bands like Jane’s Addiction, Motley Crue and Guns and Roses slipped out of the Hollywood nightlife like razor blades; sharp, sexual and talented back alley devils and fueled by ego, drugs and alcohol. Not to say that bands haven’t rocked since, but nothing like these guys. And Duff McKagan’s was at the forefront, as told in his personal tale of survival It’s So Easy and Other Lies.

The world is full to the brim of rock biographies and they all follow a similar story arc. No time musician becomes small time local success becomes big time music icons and eventually have to come to terms with the incredibly destructive and merciless lifestyle that comes with, and either ends in reform or death.

Director Christopher Duddy takes this format and puts a wonderful, unique spin on it. Part docudrama, part MTV’s unplugged style performance, part almost spoken word, Duff sits us down and tells it like it was, centering heavily on his back ground in the early ’80s punk scene in Seattle and then the hedonistic wild times in Los Angeles a decade later.

Duddy uses a mix of photographs, interviews and even sharp, dark animation to help Duff entertain with his legendary tales of debauchery. But unlike most aging rockers, who either preach to the yet to be converted or wallow in their past glory days, Duff has a serine delivery that comes off a knowledgeable without being condescending, and a nostalgic way of reflecting without glossing over. It is an extremely honest film told from an honest perspective.

If the movie lacks anything it’s the amount of stories about GNR’s heyday. The script (written by McKagan and Duddy taken from McKagan’s book of the same name) skip the golden days of the band success and seemingly goes from the release of their first album to the bad breaking up. Granted, with a run time just shy of 90 minutes, there is not a lot of time to examine such a prolific decade for a band that didn’t stop moving (or partying) for almost ten years, but fans of the genre may walk away slightly disappointed. And the interviews with McKagans friends and family sometimes come off as almost forced, the interviews with GNR guitar god Slash stick out as especially bored, as if he’s tired of the whole thing.

As a cautionary tale, It’s So Easy is a mixed bag. While McKagan did almost die from damage to his pancreas, he still ended up with a beautiful model wife and two wonderful children. But that is not what this film is about. It is about a wild life not so much lived, as survived. And when it comes to the rock and roll lifestyle, that ain’t easy.