Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet


One of the most poignant details nested in Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet, Jesse Vile’s expertly measured, emotional look at the life of a guitar prodigy cut down by ALS, involves an early misdiagnosis. When California native Becker, recruited by David Lee Roth at 19 and about to live out every young headbanger’s hairspray-and-pyro dream, complained of leg numbness in 1989, Patricia Becker blamed the tightness of her son’s jeans. It was unthinkable, after all, that such a wickedly gifted kid, seen here in old footage as a timeless talent with a handsome moon face, should suffer from anything but the known side effects of metal god-dom. That Becker’s sharp decline is unbearable to watch is the hint of what it must have been to endure. But with the help of family and friends, Becker has not only beaten the dire odds of surviving ALS but also found a way to compose music and make lewd, letter-by-letter jokes about being resigned to a diet of flaxseed and pureed plums. Vile overcomes different bleak odds, bringing the same winsome shine to his subject that emanates from the besotted guitar geeks who now leave offerings at Becker’s withered feet. Michelle Orange