Sue and Joanne hit the road about once a month, leaving their husbands and young children at home while they pursue their dream. This new documentary is about that dream.
The conflict between family and career is the sad story of activists and artists alike. This dynamic comes to play in recent movies like The Lady, Luc Besson’s biopic of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi; or in Marley, the documentary of the iconic reggae star. In her film An Affair of the Heart, director Sylvia Caminier observes her subject’s frequent diversions from their loved ones without irony or judgment. This is quite a feat, given the reason for their road trips. The middle-aged women travel around the country to follow the public appearances of a man they have idolized since they were teenagers: pop star Rick Springfield.
Springfield is nobody’s heavyweight, but he was responsible for a string of pop hits, including the classic “Jessie’s girl.” An Affair of the Heart: Rick Springfield shows that seemingly lightweight music can have a profound affect on fans.
How many of us were devoted fans of a musician or movie star when we were young, but left childish things behind for adulthood? There is something to be said for holding onto childlike innocence, but whack priorities are whack priorities, and An Affair of the Heart is the easygoing bubblegum companion to the similar but even more disturbing documentary I Think We’re Alone Now, about clearly unstable fans of bubblegum/Syfy star Tiffany.
Executive producer Melanie Lentz-Janney has been a fan of Springfield since 1981, and may be too close to her subject, but this is not entirely a puff piece. The film does not keep Sue and Joanne’s shift of priorities entirely unchallenged.
Caminier stacks the deck for both Springfield fans and the unconverted. Sue and Joanne are the first fans we meet, and their excitement may well be contagious for viewers coming to the film who love Rick Springfield. Those who are not rabid Springfield fans will probably find the pair vapid, their first-world priorities questionable. The director waits until later in the film to introduce the fan who survived a childhood heart condition, the fan that was gang-raped. These women credit Springfield’s music with helping them recover from trauma, and it is hard not to feel sympathy for their plight.
It is harder to imagine Rick Springfield as a healing balm. Now 62, the rock star and former soap opera heartthrob continues to tour today, with a slick sound of professionalism and little personality. His songs are catchy enough, he seems to be nice to his fans, but is that enough to make a good documentary?
In the film’s final act, the Springfield aura is finally questioned. From passengers on a cruise ship who do not get the fuss about the vessel’s featured entertainer, to a husband and part-time musician genuinely hurt by the attention his wife gives to the rock star he wanted to be. Rick Springfield does not make everybody happy. But this tension is too little and too late to make a compelling feature-length film out of an artist whose medium is the three-minute single.