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I am obsessed with Flogging Molly.  I was not yesterday.  I had heard of the traditionally Irish-influenced punk rockers prior to watching the film, Whiskey on a Sunday, this morning but had never heard their music.  Now I type as fast as I can, eager to run out to the record store and grab all their records.  Ordering online won’t be fast enough.  After that I need to check local concert listings and camp out wherever they’re coming next.

Whiskey on a Sunday, directed, shot and edited by Jim Dziura, who, as far as I can tell, has only done supporting camera work of a handful of documentaries, flows extremely well, picking up at an undefined date in the midst of the band’s tour, and deftly weaves in and out of tour, studio and interview footage with all band members and effectively (and free of narration) tells the band’s story, both as group and as individual members. 

On the surface it would be relatively easy to toss the band into the Black 47 bin of novelty Irish-folk-rock-punk bands (though aside from the bona fide excellent Pogues, I do not know who else might reside in that bin. House of Pain?).  But it becomes quickly apparent that Flogging Molly is a mature, thoughtful, insightful – and above all, professional – unit; and, most importantly, one that is capable of absolutely bringing down the house with rock and roll.  They could deliver this message with a polka bent or vis-à-vis gangsta rap and I doubt it would be any less compelling.

Bandleader and songwriter Dave King gets the most screentime, though Whiskey on a Sunday does devote ample time to each band member’s present and past, and the viewer is quickly convinced that every lyric to grace the band’s records and live shows is hard wrung from his heart and personal experience, explaining the effectiveness of Flogging Molly’s music and doubtless the hardcore devotion of their fans as well.  There is a naked and painfully personal honesty apparent in Flogging Molly that one can find in only a handful of musical talents; U2, Pete Townshend, Johnny Cash, and the Clash, to name a few, and, to paraphrase Dave King, songs with that kind of honesty cannot go wrong.

Whiskey on a Sunday succeeds as a well-above-average music documentary for several reasons. First and foremost is the subject, which manages to remain absolutely compelling throughout despite no scandal, no apparent internal animosity, no chart hits, and aside from a rabid fan base, I would venture to say that they while may have name recognition, 9 out of 10 folks calling them serious music fans would be hard pressed to name a Flogging Molly song, album or even band member. Still, these are decent folks, easily reminding you of friends and family and even the virgin listener quickly feels as though they need to part of this group. 

Second, Dziura’s “anonymous” approach lends a timeless feel to the film.  We rarely know where the band is performing, at what point in their personal or professional timeline they’re being captured on film, nor the relationship with the interviewer to whom they so candidly share their thoughts and feelings.  Whiskey on a Sunday feels like a true family snapshot of a band, its members generally heading quickly toward middle age, touring endlessly simply for the sake of the music.  There is a refreshing absence of cynicism and negativity.  There is very little of the usual bashing of and snickering about “the big labels,” as Flogging Molly seems entirely unconcerned with being on a label at all.  The few minutes of the film devoted to the band’s independent label execs shows them to be as open-minded and in love with the music as the band and their fans.

Finally, Whiskey on a Sunday succeeds in that it works its way under your skin and cuts to the heart unbeknownst to the viewer until it is too late.  We learn across nearly two hours of Dave King’s childhood and early loss of his father and hear stories of his mother, their poverty, their strained relationship and her failing health.  At the film’s end, as Flogging Molly performs “Whistles the Wind,” we see silent footage of Dave and fiddler Bridget Regan accompanying his mother to his father’s grave. This moment pierces the viewer so sharply that I would be genuinely surprised if most did not come away with tears in their eyes.  And yet, like Flogging Molly’s music, and their shared philosophy in general, the sadness is balanced with joy, the dark with light and, before you know it, you’re rocking again.

Whiskey on a Sunday, from Side One Dummy Records, is a two-disc set, packaged in a traditional CD-sized double digipak and, I would guess, will likely be found in the music section of most retailers as opposed to the movie section for this reason.  Bonus features include a return to Molly Malone’s (the LA pub where the band formed), extended interviews, outtakes and live performances.  The feature has stereo and 5.1 surround audio options. The second disc in the set is a full-length music CD soundtrack to the film with live and acoustic performances of many of the songs featured in the film and is an excellent companion, worthy of a separate review itself.  A no-brainer, this is a must-see that will likely become a must-own within minutes of finishing the film.

Mark A. Nichols


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