'Can't Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police'
The rock documentary holds a peculiar place in the film world. Clearly, there’s a big audience for this sort of thing that isn’t going anywhere. Yet with very few exceptions, there isn’t much to these sorts of movies. Generally speaking, they’re little more than fan service through fading memories. That’s certainly what ‘Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police’ feels like, but at least it has a good enough story to be worth the 80-minute time investment. Not bad music either.
Loosely based on his 2006 memoir ‘One Train Later’, ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’ comes pretty much entirely from the perspective of guitarist Andy Summers. The bulk of the first 20 minutes of the movie are comprised of Summers recounting his long and lonely road in the music world before finding The Police. He began as a teen in London in the 1960s, where no one appreciated his sweet sound, man. He then segued into some time in the U.S. before stumbling back to Britain with a Yankee wife just in time to turn 30. He joined The Police (who at the time considered themselves a punk band) at this very unsexy and non-rock-‘n-roll age, but that didn’t stop lightning from striking.
One of the most enjoyable elements in editor-turned-director Andy Grieve’s film is the way in which the doc explores how The Police came together through a collection of deeply different sounds and personalities that clashed off of each other to create something new. It’s certainly what made the band so unique and special at the time. Not that the movie focuses too much on that, of course. No, it’s mostly a collection of “Behind the Music” tales from Summers’ perspective. Stories of spray-paint cans exploding in Sting’s face before their TV debut, magic mushroom parties with John Belushi, and depressing groupie orgies (yep, those exist) fill up a good chunk of the running time, and Summers opened up the archives to fill the screen with a number of photos and Super 8mm home movie footage to prove it.
Sure, they’re the usual rock ‘n roll shenanigans, but the stories are fun and these sorts of tales of excess rarely get old. As the collision of talents that made the band a success gives way to a collision of egos that rips them apart, the story gets a bit more dramatic. Surprisingly, Summers has no shortage of behind-the-scenes footage of the troubles.
The movie ultimately isn’t much more than a VH-1 special, but at least it’s good one. That is, except for all the pointless footage taken during a recent reunion tour. It’s presented as being a heartfelt farewell to fans (which it never was), and the filmmakers work overtime in a failed attempt to create some sort of drama around the tour. It proves to be little more than a distraction from the main story, but I guess it got the band interested in participating with the doc. So that’s something.
It’s a little weird to hear this entire story play out in voiceover from Andy Summers when the other two members of The Police were clearly involved in the movie as well. It’s unclear why that happened, but that’s what we get. There’s plenty of dirt even if most of it has been sanitized through memory and nostalgia. Wouldt it have been nice if the movie included a little more material about the actual music? Well sure, but plenty of other sources for that material exist if you’re desperate. Ultimately, the documentary is just for that fans, and that’s fine. The Police have plenty of those, enough to support at least two or three more farewell tours.