By Gregory Crofton
The late Elliott Smith is most widely known for “Miss Misery,” an Oscar-nominated song he sang to a televised audience of millions on the 1998 Academy Awards. Much less is known about the rest of his career and life, something that’s the case for even his biggest fans. In HEAVEN ADORES YOU, director Nikolas Rossi decided to let Smith’s music, and three cities he lived in as an adult, guide his story telling.
The result is a quiet, moody doc that’s slow-going for a while. It gets bogged down exploring Smith’s days as a member of Heatmiser, his first band. Ultimately the film pays off, leaving you with a greater knowledge of what led to the creation of his music — i.e. not all of his songs were written about himself — and succeeds in transporting you somewhat into his artistic world.
It seems Smith was somewhat of a mystery to his friends and associates. Questions lingered for me regarding the circumstances of his suicide or homicide, which ever it may be, and how he wrote his masterful final album “From a Basement on a Hill,” which his family helped to get finished after his death.
Most of Rossi other documentary work has involved cinematography. He is credited with camera work for the documentaries FINDING VIVIAN MAIER (2013), THE POWER OF TWO (2011), and INCEST: A FAMILY TRAGEDY (2007), among other films.
Having recently seen and reviewed the new documentary KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK during which journalist David Fricke asks Cobain about the gloomy title of “I Hate Myself and Want to Die,” and then hearing Smith sing “Everything Means Nothing to Me” in HEAVEN ADORES ME, I can only think one thing: Don’t ever take heroin.
MTV News wrote a good article about Smith’s death. You can read it here.