I try to be as omnivorous as possible when it comes to music, but I've never been able to develop a taste for heavy metal. To be honest, I haven't tried very hard. Metal seems to exist exclusively for the benefit of a particular cohort of awkward males. It may be mildly toxic to the rest of us, but for them it is essential sustenance--a fact that Anvil!, a documetary about a metal band that just missed hitting it big, never lets you forget.
After a brief moment of glory in the early 80s, sharing the stage with Bon Jovi and Scorpions, Anvil's original members "Lips" Kudlow and Robb Reiner watched their band slide back into complete obscurity. The film focuses on their lives today, entering their fifties and working blue collar jobs as they struggle to keep their rock dream alive. We see them go on a semi-disastrous European tour, followed by a recording session during which they spend as much time squabbling as making music. After all the agony--as well as a sizable debt incurred to pay for the record--they can't get a label to distribute it.
On one level, the story is as grim as it sounds. Could there be anything more excruciating than watching a couple of overgrown boys try to reconcile their sweet dreams with the drudgery of real life? No middle-aged person could fail to see his own struggles mirrored in the pain of Kudlow and Reiner. What saves the film from being unbearable is its acknowledgment of the love between the two superannuated metalheads. These guys have failed at everything they think is important, but they've achieved something precious that eludes most of us: a profound, enduring friendship.