“Dear Jack” Movie: Music As A Lifeline

Last night I had the opportunity to catch Dear Jack, Andrew McMahon’s documentary about his battle with Leukemia, on the big screen. I should’ve brought tissues, because I definitely cried.

I’ve been a fan of Andrew McMahon since the Audioboxer EP (2001)—I don’t say that to one-up anyone, but rather to lay the foundation for my reactions to this film. For those not familiar, Andrew is the front man for both Something Corporate (disbanded in 2006) and Jack’s Mannequin.

In May 2005, just as Andrew was ready to release Jack’s Mannequin’s first full-length, Everything In Transit, he was diagnosed with Leukemia. The documentary, produced by Corey Moss and Josh Morrisroe, is a very raw, intimate navigation through his illness and recovery. Eerie coincidence and foreshadowing are interwoven, but not to the point of being gimmicky and forced. In the Q&A session that followed, a fan asked if some of the things he sang about on Everything In Transit made it all seem pre-determined—Andrew said it somehow validated the experience, “I was talking about things before they happened—that made me feel like there was a purpose for it.”

It’s been a few years since he recovered and got back in the full swing of the music scene, so naturally some were curious as to why they chose to release the film now (it will be available to the general public on November 3rd).

“I really wanted The Glass Passenger to have a life of it’s own,” McMahon answered. I think he did the right thing. I think because the difficulties of that life experience we’re kept in the confines of family, friends, and that film, listeners were able to digest Jack’s 2nd full length without trying to connect it to his experiences with hospital room walls or chemo or hallucinations and so on.

I can’t honestly say I know what every person who watches this is going to take away from it. It tugged on my heart strings especially hard during footage where Andrew didn’t know if he’d make it through the ordeal, and said so. He wasn’t sure if he should make a will, or if that was giving in; he wasn’t sure if Everything In Transit would conclude his life’s work. Although we’ve seen him pound that piano and create great things since he said those words, the way its presented pulls you back to those very fragile, uneasy moments. The fact that the ending of this movie could’ve turned out very differently sits with you the entire time, along with that lump in your throat.

Be ready for a scene in which he takes a lint-roller to his head and his hair just comes off in clumps–it made me feel so helpless and pained. The needle-wary may want to mentally prepare themselves—even the spinal tap is on tape.

I don’t know that it’ll touch non-fans as much, but I definitely recommend seeing it as a subtle message on how music can be an incredible motivation and inspiration. “My body came back quickly and I think the music had something to do with it,” Andrew said last night after the screening. Amongst the many my-record-label-sucks stories you have your pick of these days, this is a tale that will regenerate your hope.

The film will be available in-stores, on the Jack’s Mannequin website www.jacksmannequin.com and via digital download through iTunes. He’s booked for solo shows through mid-December—go get your tickets if gigs near you aren’t yet sold out!

Andrew joins Stand Up To Cancer’s team of celebrity ambassadors in December, joining David Archuleta, Kirsten Dunst, Mandy Moore, Marcia Cross, Sally Field, Sharon Osbourne and others in rallying the public around the fight against the disease in addition to raising funds to fuel groundbreaking research. As part of their Holiday ’09 line, Macbeth Footwear is also involved in a studio collaboration project with Andrew McMahon, and a portion of the proceeds will go to the Dear Jack Foundation.

In 2010 Andrew plans to live a life he can write new music about.

We are so glad Andrew McMahon is still here and we’re forever fans of his.