Brick and Mortar and Love follows the decline of Louisville record store ear X-tacy. In an early scene, hip-hop group Nappy Roots (perhaps the only people of color in the whole movie) performs to a small in-store crowd. They are playing a song about the healing power of music, from an album about plugging away when fame has left you behind. It sets the documentary’s tone, as the struggling record store makes heartfelt pleas to their community, moves to a smaller location, has a benefit concert, and ultimately closes.
After a middle that shows far too much of the move, ear X-tacy is still in peril. Some detractors emerge. They seem like villains at first, but they are raising necessary questions: Is the store’s business model outdated? What are competitors doing that they are not?
If Brick and Mortar and Love had taken the time to address these questions, it would have felt less like a Christopher Guest satire, complete with characters suffering from a myopia that charms, but rarely succeeds. You don’t have to be slick, cool, and rich to be respected in the indie world, but you do have to be original and sharp. This documentary isn’t able to cast ear X-tacy in that light.
At seventy minutes, Brick and Mortar and Love simultaneously feels anemic and overlong. Too much is repeated and not enough context is provided. Where are the testimonials from members of Louisville’s storied indie rock scene? Couldn’t they have asked the interviewees some in-depth questions? Why are they blaming big box stores without discussing downloading?
It’s sad to see an independent business go, especially a beloved record store, but Brick and Mortar and Love doesn’t inspire sympathy. I was exhausted by the end, ready to hit “stop,” and move on. –Chris Terry (brickandmortarandlove.com)