At the beginning of the rock documentary Dig!, friends-turned-rivals Anton Newcombe (of the psychedelic '60s-revivalist group The Brian Jonestown Massacre) and Courtney Taylor (of the new-wave-inspired smart-ass band The Dandy Warhols) boast all the accoutrements of rock superstardom: charisma, androgynous good looks, hard-partying lifestyles, weaknesses for coke and booze, and massive egos matched by formidable talent. All that's keeping the groups away from Behind The Music are fame, money, fans, and hit songs. Newcombe and Taylor are consummate poseurs and legends in their own minds, and by making a movie about their early friendship and eventual rivalry, director Ondi Timoner only feeds into their delusions. Dig! charts the Warhols' unsteady rise and the Massacre's spectacular fall. The former strikes out with its major-label debut and a big music video, but later finds success abroad, while Newcombe's heroin addiction, mental illness, and self-destructive tendencies sabotage his group's chances for success.
For its first hour or so, Dig! plays like a corrosively funny satire of indie-rock posturing and megalomania, a sort of real-life hipster This Is Spinal Tap that gets its most resonant laughs from the chasm between its stars' bloated self-image and their much sadder realities. In its second hour, however, it turns into a perverse lesson in alt-rock moral relativism. Newcombe gets demonized for being an arrogant, insufferable, doped-up monster too dysfunctional to achieve commercial success, while Taylor gets romanticized for being an arrogant, insufferable, coked-up monster savvy enough to land a song in a cell-phone commercial and secure a big European fan base. Both men come across as pricks, but the film frustratingly gives Taylor a free pass. Its biggest mistake lies in making the sneering, loathsome Warhols frontman its narrator, a move that deprives it of the distance necessary for a truly effective send-up of rock hubris run amok. By giving Taylor the last word, Dig! becomes little more than a self-serving, unconvincing infomercial for a musician who comes across as functional and bearable only when compared to his counterpart.