SXSW 2011 Review: BOB AND THE MONSTER
It is a tried and true tale – a promising talent gets mixed up in the world of drugs and addiction and their story ends too soon. For Bob Forrest, it seemed like that was exactly how his story would play out as he struggled with major addictions in the wake of a potentially successful music career. Instead, Forrest worked to get not only himself clean, but others as well. BOB AND THE MONSTER shows Forrest’s journey from front man of Thelonious Monster to drug counselor, as Forrest takes what could have been a tragic existence and in turn uses his experience and knowledge to help others.
Unlike many of the musicians and artists he befriended while going to school in Los Angeles, Forrest came from a fairly normal upbringing, but one in which he never quite felt like he belonged. As it turned out, the woman he had been raised to think was his sister was actually his mother, making his parents in fact his grandparents. His mother had gotten pregnant at a very young age and their family decided it would be better for her parents to raise Forrest as their son rather than their grandson. When Forrest found out the truth, he was left feeling incredibly angry and began turning to alcohol to numb those emotions and feel better.
Once Forrest got to Los Angeles, he fell in with a crowd of artists who inspired him and spoke to his creative nature. Since he was constantly around musicians, it was no surprise when Forrest started his own band, Thelonious Monster, and chose the dorks and outcasts he identified with to play alongside him. Forrest was a decent singer, but an amazing songwriter who could pull you right in to his world simply through his words. Friends and peers commented throughout the film that Forrest was an open book and his lyrics could be as basic as what happened to him the night before, but it was his total honesty that made the songs something special.
Forrest admits that he was always intrigued by drugs and sought them out to experience the high and escape he had always heard about. When describing the first time he did heroin, Forrest explains that it was like falling into a “world beyond worry” and you understand how a feeling like that can be intoxicating and cause otherwise logical people to lose sight of anything beyond that high. As his addiction increased, Forrest became selfish and self-destructive, eventually ruining the band and bringing their flourishing music career to a halt.
The film uses claymation and cartoons to depict the moments when Forrest recalls doing drugs, but it does not come across as though director Keirda Bahruth is talking down to her audience. Instead, using these reenactments works to illuminate these moments in Forrest’s life that resonates more than photos of dirty needles and track marks ever could. Drugs put you in that altered that of mind and these scenes work to show how easy it can be to fall down that rabbit hole and why it is so important to keep honest communication about it going.
Despite his intoxication with drugs and their high, Forrest always seemed to understand that he needed help that was beyond his control. He went through twenty-four stints in rehab before he was finally able to become completely sober and you can see how he uses his own stumble-and-fall history to connect with rather than patronize those going through the same experience.
Just as he brought honesty to his song writing, Forrest brings that same honesty to his drug counseling. He never holds back about his own experiences and makes sure that those he is counseling know they can come to him about anything, anytime. His history alone proves that Forrest knows first hand the effect drugs and substance abuse can have on a person’s life, but more than that, he has a passion to help people suffering from addiction that is rooted in utter selflessness. At the conclusion of the film, we see Forrest taking on his latest project, Hollywood Recovery Services which he considers a “punk rock” approach to recovery that goes beyond the “standard” and gets down to the root of each person’s issues to work to help them achieve their own sobriety.
Forrest is without a question a man who pours all of himself into everything he does. BOB AND THE MONSTER is not simply a cautionary tale, but an inspiring example of how one man was able to overcome his demons and use his success to help others do the same.