Last night I caught Reinaldo Marcus Green‘s Bob Marley: One Love, a biopic of the legendary Jamaican raggae singer‘s last few years (early to late 1970s). It’s somewhere between half-decent and “soft”, as in worshipful, friendly, appealing and mild-mannered. I didn’t hate it but it never really builds or pays off. It focuses on the spirit behind Marley’s music, which is good and welcome, but it mainly just ambles along. It’s a “hang” film.

The main problem is that Marley and the Wailers are all mumble-talking in standard Jamaican-rasta style, mon, and I couldn’t understand very much. Okay, an occasional word or phrase but not much more than that. At first I was thinking “what the fuck are they all saying?” but I soon relaxed into the idea that this is native and real-deal, of course. I sure as shit didn’t want Marley to talk like me or Bill Maher or some middle American dude — I wanted him to sound authentic, and he does as far as his theatrical effort goes. But I’m gonna have to rewatch this thing with subtitles.

Most of the critics won’t mention this, of course. They don’t want to be accused of being xenophobic so they’re all going to pretend they could hear the dialogue perfectly.

Kingsley Ben-Adir‘s performance as Marley is good and genuine. He’s much better looking than Marley ever dreamed of being, and more muscular. Plus he’s prettier than most of his female costars. I would be down with Ben-Adir being hired as the new 007. He’s audience-friendly.

The film deals with Marley’s cancerous big toe but doesn’t dramatize the poor guy’s death at age 36. Marley could have saved himself by amputating the damn toe but he refused. And the film barely glances at his vigorous womanizing. 11 kids! This is typical music superstar behavior, of course. And it doesn’t really drill into the political currents. It’s one of those films that you need to research on your phone after watching it.

Bob Marley: One Love not a top-tier biopic at all, and perhaps not even a second-tier biopic, but it’s moderately okay for the most part. It didn’t try my patience or piss me off or prompt me to cover my face with my hands.

The thing that interested me was the curious genesis of Marley’s Exodus album. Sometime during ’76 one of the Wailers is shown entering Marley’s home with the soundtrack album for Otto Preminger‘s Exodus (’60), composed by Ernest Gold. Somehow this inspires Marley’s Exodus, but why is a 16-year-old vinyl album (initially released in ’60) suddenly of interest to Marley and friends? Plus it’s quite a coincidence that the Gold theme song is used as background music for a bodybuilder show in Bob Rafelson‘s Stay Hungry (’76). Think about it.