Review: Jagged | TIFF 2021

Score:  A-

Director:  Alison Klayman

Running Time:  97 Minutes

Rated:  NR

"Being in the public eye is not a normal social construct."

Alanis Morisette is, quite possibly, the most influential female musician to ever hit the airwaves. An insanely talented performer and songwriter, the famed rocker broke glass ceilings when she entered the scene in 1994. At one point in time, one out of every ten people in the country owned a copy of Jagged Little Pill. The album, Morisette's third studio disc, was an undeniable juggernaut, blazing a path for several genre-bending performers who would follow.

Jagged, an in-depth, beautifully constructed documentary from director Alison Klayman tells the story of Morisette's rise to fame. As the title would suggest, the film focuses primarily on that unprecedented album, the events that led to the pivotal moment in music history when a female musician stood up for herself, broke all the rules, and became a global icon.

In many ways, Jagged is a stark contrast to its subject. Typical and generic in almost every way, the film excels thanks to the story and its inhabitants. Alanis, perfectly positioned in front of a wall of bookshelves, barefoot and cross-legged, sets the tone early. Her voice, conversational. Her demeanor, friendly.

When the film begins, we get a glimpse of the young rocker by way of home videos. Raised in a Catholic family, she discusses her early career aspirations and her joy to sing. The church, as it is with many, provided her voice an outlet to express itself. She looks back now and laughs, the lyrics she would belt out every Sunday morning. But that was her beginning, and like all of her journey, she accepts it.

The true heart of her story lies with the final two-thirds of the film. That is when the fun began. Though the story stays within a proverbial box, Alanis makes the most of the moment, opening the doors to a wealth of information as we begin to better understand the road she faced prior to her breakout.

Granted, in context, her journey may be more normal than many wish to believe. Eating disorder, body shame, male-dominated industry executives, we've heard it a million times before. But for some reason, the words sound different here. A short mention of rape ignites a sea of questions, thoughts that never get answered. But given the tone and setting, you cannot argue with her level of comfort in sharing.

In hindsight, much of the film's topics are handled with immense care. Klayman brilliantly interweaves present-day interviews with archival footage, giving viewers an all-access pass into one of the most unexpected success stories of the music industry. But at the same time, she never pries. Respecting her subject, she allows Alanis to tell her story, ebbing and flowing with the mood as she navigates the highs and lows to sudden superstardom.

I credit Morissette's story more than I do the film itself. That said, the end result is the same: Jagged is unequivocally near perfect. I do wish they had ventured deeper than the eighteen-month tour to support the career-defining album, but alas, the film bears its title for a reason. Interestingly, no one from Alanis' family appears in the film. It leaves a bit to be desired but cements the assumption that the iconic musician dictated the narrative. A traditional documentary misstep, I'll let it slide. No reason the trailblazing rule-breaker should start following the crowd now.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.