Supermensch: The Legend Of Shep Gordon

  • 2013
  • Movie
  • R
  • Documentary

Mike Myers' documentary debut Supermensch is a flawed and unsatisfying biography about entertainment mogul Shep Gordon, whose astonishing career spans the music, movie, and food businesses. Gordon was directly involved, on a grassroots level, in the success of such diverse pop-culture icons as Alice Cooper, Anne Murray, Alan Rudolph, Teddy Pendergrass, and...read more

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Reviewed by Nathan Southern
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Mike Myers' documentary debut Supermensch is a flawed and unsatisfying biography about entertainment mogul Shep Gordon, whose astonishing career spans the music, movie, and food businesses. Gordon was directly involved, on a grassroots level, in the success of such diverse pop-culture icons as Alice Cooper, Anne Murray, Alan Rudolph, Teddy Pendergrass, and Emeril Lagasse. He is also, by many accounts, one of the world's nicest people, and he certainly comes across that way on camera. In fact, he projects the very same combination of down-to-earth warmth and laid-back confidence that Sydney Pollack once did. Hearing Gordon recall his life with one celebrity jaw-dropper after another -- sans any overt egomania -- you instantly take a liking to this guy. In terms of the filmís success, that is a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, it is difficult†not to admire Gordon's business chutzpah. That's particularly true during the movie's early segments, in which he recalls events from the meteoric rises of such acts as Cooper, Murray, and Pendergrass. Wild anecdotal nuggets populate the screen, both familiar (Cooper's audience tearing a live chicken to pieces, which was reinvented by the media as Alice biting the animal's head off) and not so (Murray recontextualized as a "bad girl" via her Troubadour photograph with Cooper, John Lennon, and Harry Nilsson), but always within the context of Gordon's ingenious managerial skills.†This could seem wildly pompous with a different tone, especially since Gordon is the one doing much of the reminiscing, but he's so matter of fact and bemused about his accomplishments that he comes off rather well. In fact, the first half of the documentary has the same sort of†charge that you get from reading the tales of wily showbiz maneuvering in Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and Down and Dirty Pictures.†Less satisfying are Myers' reenactments of events from Gordon's career -- he uses eccentric-looking character actors with farcical reactions and comedic blocking to give the scenes zip, and it cheapens the surrounding material. This is a documentary -- not Austin Powers or The Love Guru -- and Gordonís anecdotes have sufficient humor without Myers trying to desperately milk more laughs from them. Mercifully, though, such cutaways are brief, and we still get a rise out of his tales. Moreover, the footage feels fluidly organized and well integrated by Myers and a team of several editors; the only major problem with the interpolation of archival material is the substandard visual quality of many of the images, which have been heavily digitized and suffer from so much pixilation that some of the cutaways are nearly impossible to watch.

However, the documentary doesn't fare nearly as well when it delves into its subject's personal life. Myers spends an inordinate amount of time detailing Shep's unofficial adoption of a large African-American family after his relationship with the mother ended, and there are frequent interviews with the now-grown children as they rhapsodize about what a saint Gordon is. A little bit of this sort of thing goes a very, very long way, and Myers interpolates so much of it that the second half of the movie begins to feel like a giant piece of onanism. This is part of a larger problem: We never hear any major criticisms of Gordon, and given that he has such a complex, byzantine history involving so many prickly, eccentric A-list celebs, it's almost certain that he has†amassed at least a few enemies and non-fans over the years. Although a lot of high-profile people in Hollywood turn up with plenty of glowing things to say about Gordon, you start wondering how many folks declined to participate, and what they would have contributed. Myers tips his hat to this central weakness when he acknowledges that Gordon and Sharon Stone were lovers for several years -- despite the fact that Stone is conspicuously absent from the list of commentators.

Aside from the suggestion that Gordon's enormous circle of friends and lovers somehow acted as a substitute for an intimate, long-term relationship with one woman -- a fascinating and credible idea which the movie gives short shrift --†it appears that Myers was afraid to delve too deeply into his friendís character flaws and weaknesses, and this keeps the film from being a success. The best biographical documentaries are more evenhanded -- instead of giving us a hagiographic, whitewashed image of their subjects, they probe the individuals' regrets, mistakes, struggles, and skeletons in the closet -- so that we walk away unsure of how to resolve our own feelings. Here, the experience is a little like being sold a piece of†pop-religious dogma, with Shep Gordon as a messiah and Myers as his John the Baptist -- watching the picture is enjoyable on a surface level, but the more you think about it in hindsight, the more unclean you feel. Gordon may be an incredible person, but he deserves a more mature and intelligent profile than this.

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  • Released: 2013
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Mike Myers' documentary debut Supermensch is a flawed and unsatisfying biography about entertainment mogul Shep Gordon, whose astonishing career spans the music, movie, and food businesses. Gordon was directly involved, on a grassroots level, in the succes… (more)

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