Rolling Stone magazine. A bit more than almost famous…

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Rolling Stone has always been a publication with gravitas. People write songs about being on the cover. They boast Hunter S. Thompson, Cameron Crowe, Lester Bangs and other pop culture behemouths as former journalists. There simply is no other magazine that has had anywhere near the amount of effect on popular culture that Rolling Stone has, so that should make for an unforgettable documentary right? Not quite…

Subject matter alone isn’t always enough and directors Blair Foster and Alex Gibney make some odd choices on Stories from the Edge. The decision to exclude a narrative voice for a film that is nearly four hours long is truly baffling. Instead we have talking heads and extracts from classic Rolling Stone articles as read by Jeff Daniels. What this means is that when the focus moves from Ike Turner to Bruce Springsteen to Hunter Thompson to Ice T and back again, it jars every single time. Stories from the Edge sometimes feels like trying to watch ten different documentaries all at once, all narrated by Jeff Daniels. Actually that sounds awesome, somebody make that happen.

That being said, the sheer scope of interviewees is impressive and hearing writer-cum-film director Cameron Crowe talk about music reminds everyone why we love it so much. As someone that spends hours writing articles that only about 100 people will read, the interviews with Crowe are pretty life affirming. Elsewhere, archive footage of Hunter S. Thompson is always a joy, and the many former Rolling Stone editors an journalists are all passionate and interesting.

The consequence of featuring so many ex-staffers however is that this is certainly not an even sided view. Rolling Stone is a magazine that has been in decline for some time now and nobody would be particularly stunned if it followed NME down the road of ending its physical publication to run what is basically a celeb gossip site online (RIP NME).

With a magazine as culturally important and beloved as Rolling Stone there was an opportunity to produce a truly spellbinding documentary, in the end we are given a bunch of album tracks instead of the greatest hits.