In 1995, Canadian singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette released her third album, Jagged Little Pill, which was a far cry from her two previous dance-pop albums, and its fierce lyrics made her a global success. Nearly 25 years later, it is considered one of the best-selling records of all time. In Alison Klayman’s new documentary, Jagged celebrates the legacy of the album and accompanying tour, as well as Morissette’s influence on modern music.
Frustratingly, Jagged doesn’t fully explore the album’s legacy as much as audiences might hope and only briefly touches on Alanis’ influence as a female artist in the music industry. Fleeting snippets from Taylor Swift and Beyoncé go some way to show the influence Morissette has had on their own artistry but Klayman loses this direction very quickly. As a result, it feels like audiences are only getting the beginning of Alanis’ career and not the whole story.
Morissette is naturally the core of the film, sitting cross-legged and smiling directly into the camera, clearly comfortable being interviewed. Jagged uses a combination of intimate interviews, as well as archive footage of performances and more candid, behind-the-scenes videos, to show her evolution from a child star to a passionate performer, not to mention an era-defining superstar. Relocating from her native Canada to Los Angeles, as well as her songwriting collaboration with Glen Ballard, allowed her to move beyond her past as a pop princess. However, Morissette’s ‘controversial’ lyrics in Jagged Little Pill left many deeming her unsuitable mainstream music – so much so that the mostly male music journalists critiquing her album at the time dismissed her as an ‘angry‘ woman. But listeners heard something else – a woman with the courage to express a voice that would make her a star in the 1990s’ alternative music scene.
However, Jagged shows that Alanis Morissette is more than a singer-songwriter. Amid backstage tour footage, she is in charge of an all-male rock band (that also included drummer Taylor Hawkins before he joined the Foo Fighters), who revel in the attention of young girls and fans. While others might allow this sense of leadership to change them, she is shown to be a down-to-Earth performer with a preference for oversized T-shirts. In addition, she still displays the gentle demeanour yet commanding presence on stage that endeared her to fans all those years ago and allowed her to defy the limitations placed on other female performers or girl groups that dominated 1990s music.
That being said and despite her smiles, Morissette is candid about her experience as a young singer in the music industry, when she was judged by her weight and preyed on by older men. Her recollections are fleeting yet powerful moments in Klayman’s documentary but sadly, Morisette’s brutal honesty about the ‘shame in victimisation’ she felt as a teenager rings true 25 years on, as the #MeToo movement continues to affect the world of entertainment.
Overall, Jagged presents itself as an ode to Morissette’s iconic album but its celebration is overly subtle due to a lack of depth. However, Klayman successfully offers an insight into a groundbreaking album from an iconic artist. More notably, an album that enabled women to not just be seen but also heard.
Director: Alison Klayman
Stars: Alanis Morissette
Runtime: 99 minutes