Really Good Rejects REVIEW – A Music Documentary That Loses Its Way

The music documentary loses track of where its going along the way.

Really Good Rejects
Really Good Rejects

Reuben Cox appears to be an ordinary man – and he is. He lives in a humble home in California and works as hard as anyone else. For musicians and guitarists – from Jackson Browne to Aaron Dessner – he’s a legend. Cox is neither a musician nor a guitarist, but he has a passion for repairing and repurposing guitars. His journey from a simple photographer to a world-renowned luthier is an interesting one, and it is the subject of Alice Gu’s documentary, Really Good Rejects.

It isn’t hard to like Reuben Cox. Alice Gu introduces us to an individual who has a gift in creating and distributing an instrument that’s a must-have for anyone on the musical scene. She also introduces us to notable artists who depend on Cox to take care of their prized instruments, and viewers will appreciate their relationship with someone such as Cox.

Sadly, despite the passion and inspiration from those interviewed, Gu’s documentary misses the mark.

Really Good Rejects focuses on the life, upbringing, and craft of Reuben Cox. Using his knowledge of woodcraft and photography, he became a successful luthier, crafting guitars for both amateur and professional musicians. He is an individual who uses his passion to pay the bills – and he is beloved by notable artists because of it.

Anyone who loves guitars or music will, at times, get lost in the background score. The film has a wonderful musical composition essentially consisting of musicians whom Cox has personally worked with. There are plenty of guitar riffs throughout the film, some of which are pleasant, and some are gritty. Thankfully, the music isn’t too loud or distracting, and viewers might find a new artist or two to add to their playlists.

Really Good Rejects also makes an interesting choice of incorporating animated bits into the final cut. A guitarist will play their instrument here or there, and animated symbols will emerge from their fingertips. At other points, the film gives us fully animated segments to visually describe the musical process.

Unfortunately, Gu loses track of what she’s trying to accomplish midway through the film.

Really Good Rejects opens with various musicians giving their thoughts on Reuben Cox. It makes for a pleasant introduction and stimulates our curiosity for this man. Cox proves to be likable and relatable for the first 30 minutes of the film.

However, as Cox and other musicians detail their love of music, the film veers away from the main thread and goes off in several odd directions. One musical artist after the next describes how music inspired them and continues to. Coupled with more segments of the musical process, interspersed with random clips of Cox at work, we’re left with a somewhat disjointed presentation with no clear message.

The insight we get is most definitely fascinating, but Gu’s film never really returns to the primary thread of who Reuben Cox is and how his craft helped so many in their musical careers. Unfortunately, what starts as a film about a humble individual following his passion pushes him aside to talk about other topics, and the film loses its power because of this.

Really Good Rejects isn’t a terrible documentary, thankfully. Musical enthusiasts will appreciate the interviews and how musicians find their passion. Newcomers, however, will get lost in what Gu is trying to convey. Gu’s attempt to show how music binds us together is respectable, but it just doesn’t deliver what’s intended.

Review screener provided.

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Really Good Rejects
Really Good Rejects attempts to tell the story of Reuben Cox, a typical individual who interacts with and furthers the careers of iconic guitarists. We gain insight as to how music inspires him, and others, but the film loses its direction by including too many topics at once.