‘Bob Marley: One Love’ plays a bland, family-authorized tune

‘Bob Marley: One Love’ plays a bland, family-authorized tune

By fijivillage
Friday 16/02/2024
Kingsley Ben-Adir as Bob Marley in "Bob Marley: One Love." Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures

Despite offering Kingsley Ben-Adir the breakout role that has clearly awaited him, “Bob Marley: One Love” comes across too much as a licensed product, a family-blessed movie that avoids the detail (and potential rough edges) of an actual biopic to focus on one narrow slice of the reggae star’s too-brief life. It’s a dutiful addition to a recent wave of such biographies (see “Rocketman” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”), but a largely uninspired one.

Part of that can be traced to “King Richard” director Reinaldo Marcus Green’s decision, as he told Yahoo, that based on his experience with that earlier movie, he “would not have made the film if they were not involved,” referencing Marley’s widow Rita and children Ziggy and Cecelia, all credited as producers.

Such involvement, however, can be a double-edged sword, and in the case of “One Love,” at least, yields a movie that feels particularly thin and sanitized, picking up with tumult in Marley’s home of Jamaica, an assassination attempt on his life in 1976, and a move to Europe where he came up with his album “Exodus” and then toured to support it.

Set primarily within that slender window, Green (who shares script credit with three other writers) deals with the biographical aspects through fleeting flashbacks, mostly involving Marley’s courtship of his wife Rita (Lashana Lynch), who, in the present-tense portion of the film, too often is left sporting a pained expression as evidence of marital strain, while only glancingly addressing its origins.

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Leaning into Marley’s accent and mannerisms, Ben-Adir (whose eclectic recent resume includes Marvel’s “Secret Invasion,” “Barbie,” and playing another icon, Malcolm X, in “One Night in Miami”) captures the singer’s magnetism and creativity, but the unerring nature of that portrait is somewhat hamstrung by the movie’s narrative structure.

Similarly, there’s relatively little done to develop the supporting players, and other than one flash of temper, the movie presents a largely unblemished snapshot of Marley, especially compared to the warts-and-all excesses depicted in other biographical tales covering musical superstars.

All that really leaves, then, is the music itself, and performance sequences meticulously replicated with Ben-Adir primarily lip-synching to Marley’s vocals.

What “One Love” doesn’t do, ultimately, is provide enough material to distinguish the movie from the contours of an authorized biography or documentary. In that sense, the film pays tribute to Marley’s work but winds up hampered by a love for its subject that works against its ability to deliver major insights or rock-star-level drama.

“Bob Marley: One Love” premieres February 14 in US theaters. It’s rated PG-13.

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