It would be super-interesting to watch Brand: A Second Coming with a copy of the DSM-V nearby and try to diagnose the combination of narcissism, charisma, egotism, addictive behavior, and severe attention deficit that characterizes comedian Russell Brand.
That isn’t a criticism of the man, it’s literally what the film is about: Brand obsessing over his symptoms. Though it includes parts of a live comedy performance, the film is a documentary with an attention span about as long as its subject’s, rapidly intercutting stories about his childhood, his television and radio career in the U.K., international stardom, his struggles with drugs, and his fourteen-month marriage to Katy Perry.
Live, his stage is dominated by portraits of the world-changing charismatic figures to whom he compares himself: Che Guevara, Gandhi, Jesus, Malcolm X. He is totally not kidding about this. Brand insists on his status as a historically pivotal figure of change and revolution, but those were men with strategies.
Brand is incapable of the focus for anything deeper than tactics of charm, glibness, and shock. He becomes vague and high-flown when he talks about spirituality or revolution, piling up word salad while gazing into a middle distance in which he presumably sees himself: “Narcissism and egotism are a vital component of anyone who wants to change the world,” he says at one point. But for Brand, those traits are a team of fearsome horses behind which he’s uncontrollably dragged as they stampede across performance venues, star-struck women, friendships, other people’s egos, and supposed social norms that have already been well trampled.
Brand: A Second Coming
Directed by Ondi Timoner
Opens October 2, Village East Cinema
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 29, 2015