Generally favorable reviews - based on 18 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 13 out of 18
  2. Negative: 0 out of 18
  1. Reviewed by: Noel Murray
    Oct 28, 2010
    Most fan-docs are fairly remedial, but Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt And The Magnetic Fields is more sophisticated than the norm, in keeping with its subject.
  2. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Dec 11, 2010
    Clearly, the directors have to be Merritt advocates to hang in there that long, but the film that resulted has elements that keep it from being simply a fan's notes.
  3. Reviewed by: Stephanie Zacharek
    Oct 26, 2010
    A smart, sophisticated songsmith in the tradition of Cole Porter, or an inscrutable, pretentious twit? In the course of his near-20-year career, Stephin Merritt - the sort-of frontperson for the indie-rock collective Magnetic Fields - has been considered both.
  4. Reviewed by: V.A. Musetto
    Dec 11, 2010
    No matter your take on Merritt's persona, there's no denying that he's a unique musician whose songs -- such as "Papa Was a Rodeo" and "Living in an Abandoned Firehouse With You" -- are worth discovering. As is this film.
  5. Reviewed by: Walter Addiego
    Dec 11, 2010
    Overall, this is a nice introduction to an amiably dour tunesmith who once wrote that "all art aspires to the condition of Top 40 bubblegum pop."
  6. Reviewed by: Shawn Levy
    Dec 11, 2010
    Moves with lightness, verve and charm, which Magnetic Fields fans might find amusing, given Merritt's well-known morosity. But there is more than a suggestion here that his persona is just that, and that those sweet melodies he sings so dryly arise from a truly sweet core.
  7. Reviewed by: J.R. Jones
    Jan 13, 2011
    The documentary is most valuable for its fly-on-the-wall footage of the inventive tunesmith puttering around his apartment and drilling the band on his idiosyncratic arrangements.
  8. Reviewed by: Ian Buckwalter
    Oct 28, 2010
    He's hardly a cuddly figure, but neither does he come across as an intimidating presence. After all, it's hard to think of anyone in cantankerous terms after they've just lovingly described the history of the beloved old hand-knitted stuffed animal that is their oldest possession.
  9. Reviewed by: Mike Hale
    Oct 26, 2010
    In her director's statement for Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields, Gail O'Hara writes that "this one's for the fans." Rarely has that been more true.
  10. Reviewed by: Eric Hynes
    Oct 26, 2010
    Yet that dissonance is also what makes Strange Powers, a 10-years-in-the-making record of Merritt and his Magnetic Fields bandmates, so intriguing.
  11. Reviewed by: Kimberley Jones
    Dec 7, 2010
    You didn't actually think Stephin Merritt was going to cozy up to the camera and reveal his deepest-darkest, did you?
  12. Reviewed by: Lisa Schwarzbaum
    Oct 27, 2010
    The affectionate, bemused, structurally unkempt portrait is at its best capturing Merritt's close collaboration with his longtime friend and bandmate Claudia Gonson.
  13. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Dec 11, 2010
    In inviting us along to peek into the life, filmmakers Kerthy Fix and Gail O'Hara don't give us quite enough about the art.
  14. 60
    As in his pithy, tuneful songs-many written from different perspectives, in different styles-Merritt is committed to stylizing his misery instead of boring you with it.
  15. Reviewed by: Frank Scheck
    Dec 11, 2010
    The widely heralded musical auteur deserves a more insightful documentary treatment than the one afforded in Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields.
  16. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Dec 11, 2010
    I'm not sure it would be possible, or desirable, for a documentary to reveal any more about Stephin Merritt than this one does. But I would have loved to see one that revealed more about his music.
  17. Reviewed by: Vadim Rizov
    Dec 11, 2010
    Not only is the film a slog, the main focus is on the band's arguably inferior last decade.
  18. Reviewed by: David Fear
    Oct 26, 2010
    Strange Powers works best when inadvertently capturing the toll of living in the shadow of a genius. When it comes to examining the genius himself, it's woefully out of tune.
User Score

No user score yet- Awaiting 1 more rating

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 3
  2. Negative: 1 out of 3
  1. Oct 27, 2010
    Give it a miss. The sort of thing we've seen before. I've seen at least two other movies recently that dealt with almost exactly the same subject, but they were both much better than this. This would have been much better suited to the documentary format. Full Review »
  2. Oct 27, 2010
    I wasn't too impressed with this one. It's just not original enough. It reminds me of another movie - the name of which escapes me right now - which dealt with a similar subject (musician's life story) but that one was much better. See this only if you really love rock music. Full Review »
  3. Oct 27, 2010
    10 out of 10.
    I have never seen a movie like this before, from the first scenes, which sizzle with authenticity, to the last, dripping with
    bathos, this film amazed me. Ostensibly a biopic about a semi-successful musician named Stephen Merritt, it traverses the range of human experience, from the expectant wonder of youth to the dashed hopes of middle age.
    It captures the rock milieu so convincingly, it plays like a documentary. I see a lot of movies, so many that sometimes I'm not sure of the titles or subject matter a day later, but I will never forget this one.
    Full Review »