There were few figures in the late 2010's music landscape that were more polarizing than XXXTentacion, aka Jahseh Onfroy, the generational, diamond-selling artist whose controversies paralleled his achievements. Told through the stories of his closest friends, family, and business associates, as well as unseen footage from Onfroy himself, upcoming biopic Look At Me! is a rare exploration of the troubled mind behind a generational artist, a film that doesn't shy away from the parts of X that made him who he was. Produced by Fader Films, the Sabaah Folayan-directed film is an appropriately nuanced dive into the uncompromising true, and at times hard to watch, story of Onfroy.
For any good documentary, a healthy dose of narrative objectivity is required. Look At Me! is no different as it very much focuses on the highs and the lows of Onfroy, juxtaposing the subdued side of X against the raucous, rockstar stage presence. Most importantly, the doc doesn't shy away from confronting the elephant in the room, the shocking and indefensible violence and abuse on which much of the rise of X's career is attributed. Interviews with victim and ex-girlfriend Geneva Ayala put center stage on the tabloid headlines of domestic abuse, unfathomably terrible to imagine until the graphic images and stories presented on-screen provide incontrovertible context. The film makes no excuse for these allegations, nor does it intend to, it just presents X as he was; a deeply brilliant, deeply troubled young man with innumerable personal demons that both aided and hindered the expression and interpretation of his art.
Conversely, the doc also touches on the positive effects of X's music; shifting a spotlight on the generation of kids who related to and thoroughly absorbed his lyrics about struggles with demons, depression, and bipolar disorder. The possibility that his music may have saved countless lives because of Onfroy's focus on connecting with and lifting up his fans when they came to him at their lowest moments is all too real and a symptom of his artistry that must always be taken into account. The bottom line is that X cultivated an inescapable legion of fans who were able to cope with and possibly even overcome their depression because of their connection with their idol. This is a very real and positive symptom of the music that contributes to the discussion to be had when drawing a line between art and artist.
At the end of the day, Look At Me! is an entry point into a deeper discussion into an incredibly controversial but also universally relevant figure who just happens to be one of the best-selling artists of this century. Domestic violence and struggles with mental health are both epidemics in pop culture today and the X doc shines additional light on why artists with prominent dark sides have become some of the most successful artists to date. It'd be impossible to tell Onfroy's story tactfully enough to not raise some eyebrows and generate some controversy, but the beauty of the film is that it gives the audience the tools to have these discussions on X's life and legacy with more accuracy and understanding.
Look At Me! is set to stream exclusively on Hulu on May 26 and is sure to generate a spirited discussion in pop culture for weeks to come.