Apparently, filmmakers still do this: Believer is a documentary about the LGBTQ experience told through the perspective of a straight white cis dude. What’s more, that dude is the frontman of Imagine Dragons. A lifelong Mormon–turned–emo king who wrote earnest stadium pablum for bro-y Michael Bay movies about space robots, Dan Reynolds is touchingly unnerved when the stewards of his faith double down on anti-gay invective during a spike in teen suicides. It’s moving, too, when Reynolds tries to save the world: He launches a hippie-ish festival, called LoveLoud, in Utah, where he’ll scream-sing about tolerance within spitting distance of the Church of Latter-day Saints HQ. Allies: Is there nothing they can’t do?
Not so fast: Reynolds’s partner in crime is Tyler Glenn, fellow Mormon and fellow sensitive rock god (of the Neon Trees), though one who was forced to leave the church after coming out. Alas, Glenn doesn’t get as many Spotify clicks. And so we’re mostly stuck with Reynolds — an affable fellow but certainly not one to deflect criticism over Believer’s old-school insistence that viewers won’t care about queer issues without a hetero guide.
A better doc would have used its superstar lead as a linchpin, structuring it so that he’s absorbed into the cause, gradually upstaged by those directly affected by sanctioned bigotry. Instead, director Don Argott (of the more dynamic music docs Rock School and Last Days Here) fills the running time with borderline Akerman-esque mundanity: Reynolds making calls in his car, logging on to Skype, staging domestic scenes for the camera, weeping over his own heroism. And then, after all this, our reward is we have to listen to Imagine Dragons?
Directed by Don Argott
Opens June 15, Cinema Village
Premieres June 25 on HBO
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 13, 2018