Rolling Stone: Stories from the Edge; 50 Years of Defining Culture

color & b/w.4.5+ hrs. Alex Gibney, dist. by Shout! Factory, shoutfactory.com. 2018. DVD UPC 826663189698. $26.97; Blu-ray UPC 826663189728. $34.98. SDH subtitles. COMM
The narrative of Rolling Stone magazine closely mirrors the subculture from which it emerged—San Francisco scenesters bucking the establishment only to become the establishment themselves. However, this is glossed over in director Gibney's (Going Clear) 4.5-hour documentary on the journal's 50-year history in favor of baby boomer pastiche. A tone-deaf segment on groupies early in the program tries too hard to insert edginess. The second half of the film tackles heartier fare, such as the discredited 2015 article on rape at the University of Virginia. Not surprisingly, founder Jann Wenner is the main talking head, but the program is at its best when it gives voice to the publication's other writers and photographers, such as Hunter S. Thompson, Ben Fong-Torres, Alan Light, and Annie Leibovitz.
VERDICT Gibney's slick film, produced in association with HBO and Rolling Stone Productions, could have used better editing for what is, essentially, a puff piece. Despite the film's congratulatory tone, viewers are left with the sense that the magazine was a reaction to the culture, not its creator.
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