Danielson: A Family Movie - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Danielson: A Family Movie Reviews

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June 4, 2012
no info = no interest
July 4, 2011
A wonderfully inspiring film about music, individualism, artistic integrity and honoring the Creator. Oh, and Sufjan Stevens is in it. And Daniel Johnston makes an appearance. :)
June 20, 2011
What a genius! In so many ways what I aspire to in my own pursuit of art and Christian spirituality. This fantastic documentary was such an inspiration!
½ October 17, 2010
One of the truly inspiring artists. Christian or not. Also goes into depths on Sufjan that I've never seen before.
July 14, 2009
To be honest, Daniel Smith doesn't interest me that much. But Sufjan does!!
June 8, 2009
Danielson: A Family Movie is an unexpectedly fascinating documentary about The Danielson Famile, a faith-based indie rock group from Clarksboro, New Jersey. Daniel Smith is the charismatic frontman and muse of the band, which is comprised of an ever-changing mixture of his siblings and friends. Daniel would no doubt balk at the flattering description of himself. In his eyes, he's simply a cipher for God's creativity. He describes himself as the kid helping his Dad change a flat tire; he doesn't really get to change the flat, but he feels like he's involved anyway.

Funny thing is...I believe him. He's being completely sincere. For me, this is the kicker. I don't have a whole lot of love for Christian Rock. I've found the label applies primarily to disingenuous groups with mediocre talent who exploit a built-in fanbase. Oddly, I think Daniel Smith would agree. He refuses to be pigeonholed so easily. His music has an organic, unpolished brightness about it. It's mildly punky, a little folksy, and most assuredly unique. I'm reminded of Modest Mouse, Daniel Johnston, and The B-52's. The sound grows on you like a warm rash. The band sports nurses costumes, meant to signify the healing power of Christ, that lends them a wacky, unsettling uniformity. Wacky because, like The B-52's with their bouffant hair-do's, the look is intentionally kitschy. Unsettling because I can't help but think of fascism and Christianity.

But now I'm projecting. When I hear Daniel Smith speak, I think of Marilyn Manson. I mean this as a compliment. Marilyn Manson tries so hard aesthetically to distance himself from the main-stream that it comes as a shock when you hear him in an interview. He's soft-spoken, gracious, intelligent, poised, and objective. Daniel Smith carries himself with the same mien. He wins you over with his lack of pretension. In short, I'm a fan. I never thought I'd hear myself say it, but there it is. Sometimes I just gotta shut up and listen to the music.
April 19, 2009
I'm going to say this up-front: I never realized how adorable Sufjan Stevens was until seeing this movie.

But going into the movie only for Stevens, I was very surprised by how much I liked it. It's great to see a band that's so genuine, and to see them become successful on top of that! The Danielson Famile are fantastic people, and I've definitely become a fan of their work after seeing this movie. Hopefully, I'll catch them (or at least Danielson) in concert sometime soon. :)
½ November 30, 2008
I love The Danielson Famile and this documentary does a pretty good job of capturing them, tracing their humble beginnings as Daniel Smith's thesis project to cult indie icons. I'm well-enough read on the band that there wasn't really much in here that surprised me, however, it was nice to get the various famile member's perspectives. My only real complaint is that, even though I am a fan of Sufjan Stevens, I felt as though too much time was dedicated to him. Interestingly, for as much time pointed screen time as they give him, there weren't a lot of shots of him actually performing with Danielson. Candid shots, structured interviews, and gratuitous shot framing, yes. But I'd have liked to see more of him actually performing as a Famile member. Also would have liked to see a bit more with Daniel Smith's father, Lenny, who is an awesome songwriter in his own right. One thing this documentary does a great job of highlighting is how bloody NORMAL Daniel Smith appears when he isn't singing. Seriously, he could be an effin' office-worker for the way he both looks and interacts with people. Anyway, little quibbles aside, this is a great look at one of the curious musical acts of America.
November 16, 2008
My first memory of Danielson Famile was back in 2000 where I put 'Head in da Cloudz' on repeat much to the annoyance of one of my roommates (sorry, Maria). I found them amusing at least while the rest of the room just hoped to find the mute button. And therein lies the story told throughout this film: the story of an eccentric band - and not just any band, but a band of siblings dressed in nurse uniforms (or freakish purple jumpsuits, depending on the time in their career) - playing the underground indie rock scene and finding their place in a sea of skepticism. Oh, and they also sing about Jesus (as if the jumpsuits weren't freakish enough...).

The film follows the band's rise to 'fame' - or whatever it was that they rose to - and captures the genuine bond that the family shares with one another as they gradually grow and gain lives for themselves. Rachel gets married, Megan goes to design school, Daniel's wife has a baby, and despite their deep desire to continue touring together, life essentially goes on. While most stories would end there, this is where 'Danielson' just begins. With the band seemingly poised for an explosive start and its members gradually paving lives for themselves elsewhere, the parts and players constantly fluctuate with rotating instrumentalists. And when Daniel Smith - the main hub of the Danielson wheel - finally takes to the stage as a solo act, he only brings one other member with him. That member just happens to be a then little-known musician named Sufjan Stevens.

The pairing is ironic to say the least: the soft-spoken strumming of Stevens juxtaposed with Daniel's staggering falsetto; one making your head turn to listen more intently with the other making you ask to turn it down. It isn't long before the inevitable occurs and Sufjan is swept up into the sea that Danielson always skirted around without ever officially swimming in. A sea of sold out shows and chart topping singles that crash on the banks of approval and applause from circles that Danielson had every hope of appealing to. And yet an indelible mark is left on Sufjan's style from his Danielson days: his use of a variety of instruments, his unique approach to discussing topics of faith, and even his 'family' feel during live shows. Still, one can't help but feel a little sad to see Daniel struggle to follow the Famile act while the artist he mentored leaves him behind.

In the end, it is more than appropriate to call J.L. Aronson's documentary 'a family movie'. Sure, it's clean family fare as far as MPA ratings go; but more importantly it captures the complexity of issues that families inevitably face: excitement of working together towards a dream, the somewhat awkward reality that those dreams become, and the struggle to remain true to those dreams in the face of success and/or disappointment despite whatever prides and jealousies may come. This is family at its best - where love is the law and leaves enough room for everyone....purple jumpsuits and all.
August 29, 2008
Madness and some crazy music. A must-see.
August 20, 2008
I only watched this because I was interested in discovering Sufjan's involvement. However, I suppose it was inevitable that once I'd seen it I'd become a Danielson fan. His voice is fantastic, his music is beautiful and his art is weird.
August 5, 2008
Daniel Smith is such an interesting artist, performer and creative spirit. His views on music/religio and our need to put music into nice tidy categories are so true.
July 21, 2008
Interesting documentary about the group and main man. Music is cool too.
½ July 18, 2008
What a weird outfit. I probably enjoyed seeing Sufjan Stevens (though he comes across as a dark, silent and almost dull character in the documentary) and Daniel Johnston, who is probably just as off as Brother Danielson. I reasonably enjoyed this movie. However, I didn't think it was particularly poignant, and all the views that Brother Danielson holds are not new to me or anyone else that I know. Anyway, he was making some interesting music at the time, so I'll grant that he's definitely creative, but that voice... it's grating. It's quirk material here, and you might enjoy it.
July 16, 2008
Very interesting documentary. Funny to see Sufjan playing to extremely small crowds.
½ June 16, 2008
Pretty cool. Daniel Smith comes off like a really bright, thoughtful, well-spoken and basically normal guy. Which is shocking, since from hearing his music you'd think he was raised by canaries.
June 7, 2008
Fantastic. It made me love danielson more.
May 22, 2008
A mixed bag. I liked it more than I thought I would.
May 13, 2008
Strange. That's all that one can really say about this is that it's strange. I'll be honest. It wasn't until I started watching this one that I actually remembered the band. Obviously there is more of a connection here for Sufjan Stevens with some people, but for those who somehow found themselves connecting with The Danilson Family Band (or Daneilson... or Brother Danielson), this is an interesting doc. While it certainly is not for those who lack patience or an open mind, it tends to grow on you as it goes on. The fact that Daniel remains utterly indefinable as an artist and a person makes you almost want to keep on watching.

And the music is of course bizarre. It's a celebration of artistic freedom I suppose, but outside of that it is difficult to suggest that the music has any sort of lasting power. But just I say that there are clearly those who attended his shows, thought he was a genious, and were somehow inspired on this man's message of faith.

A famil dressed in doctors and nurses outfits. A man singing while wearing a tree outfit which has the 9 fruits of the spirit hanging from it's branches. Bizarre arrangements that incorporate whatever instrument these guys can get their hands on. An almost socially inept frontman who seems to never quite make sense in his interviews. And an oddly raw and unpolished documentary all make this one a unique experience that can't quite be rated.
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