Movie review: ‘American: The Bill Hicks Story’

Movie review: 'American: The Bill Hicks Story'


Fascinating if slavish account of the life of American comic Bill Hicks

American: The Bill Hicks Story

Cert: 15, 102 mins

“What Bill said will never change, because it is the basic truths, and they are never wrong”.

So says Bill Hicks‘ mother at the start of this engaging documentary. The line, however, says it all: this documentary will not stray from the line that Hicks Spoke The Truth, that Hicks Broke The Mould, and that Hicks was the Funniest Comic of his Generation.

Clearly, Hicks – a comedy-ranting, politically-motivated iconoclast in the style of Lenny Bruce – has a tale worth telling. It’s just a shame there’s hardly mention of Lenny Bruce to put him in context. You can’t help feel you’re sometimes watching a Party Political Broadcast of behalf of the Hicks party.

Told in voiceover interviews by Hicks‘ friends and family, the visuals are brilliant – photographs morphing into 2D animation, Southpark crossed with Waltz with Bashir – and we watch every snippet of Hicks on film, from his first gigs as a precocious teen to his last performances, dying with cancer at just 32.

We learn about the years it took Hicks to find his voice, his battle with alcohol, his experiments with drugs, how we in the UK took him to our hearts more than America ever did. But still, barely a bad word – nothing about his failed relationships, little about the awful person he became as a drunk; his hippy-style thoughts on mind-expanding substances are almost treated as fact.

Not that any of that should put you off of what is otherwise a worthy re-telling of the life of a true original.

Stuart McGurk