While there aren’t many films shot on Super 8 anymore, It’s About You, a documentary that isn’t really about John Mellencamp’s 2009 No Better Than This tour, doesn’t make the case that moviegoing is missing anything because of that. The film dismisses the adage that two heads are better than one because the directors—father Kurt and son Ian Markus, both first-timers—are unable to produce with their outmoded camera anything that speaks to 8mm’s missing value; they also don’t use the format to lend the film the intimacy that might have allowed fans a more up-close and substantial look at Mellencamp, who, early on in the film, tells the Markuses that It’s About You is to be about them, not him.
Despite Kurt’s expressed refusal for the film to be anything else than about Mellencamp in his narration, It’s About You is ultimately a record of two amateurs, meaning well but under-skilled in the task of documenting a subject so crushingly larger and more appealing than themselves that their film serves no one—except perhaps for Mellencamp completists and those whose hearts are warmed by the thought of a father-son team making essentially a home movie about the time they got to follow Mellencamp around for a month and a half, always lagging behind his trailer in their separate vehicle because, as the wholesome Kurt says, “there should be a place where privacy is respected; this isn’t a reality TV show.”
A few things are suggested by the shape given to the film by Kurt’s moralistic remarks: Mellencamp’s brand of rock n’ roll is one that, at the very least, attracts those with some decency, and perhaps just as likely, a Christian outlook (“Are the discoveries you’re seeking to make outside of yourself or within?”); Mellencamp, unlike Bob Dylan, another secret Christian-rock act and Mellencamp’s unseen tour companion, is as personable and simple-natured as his populist music would lead you to believe, thus nullifying the need for the film’s unmet goal of an intimate portrait; Kurt, with his observational-to-ponderous, matter-of-fact voiceover, may be the cinematic brother to the narrator of Los Angeles Plays Itself. As a film shot from the blatantly personal perspective of its filmmakers, It’s About You strengthens the bond between musician and fan, highlighting not so much the people music brings together, but what they bring to the music, even though by personalizing its subject, the film makes itself less accessible to more people.