Canadian ‘90s grunge queen Alanis Morissette gets a deep dive into her career, rise to stardom and more in Jagged, a new HBO doc entry into Bill Simmons’ Music Box series.
Premiering as part of the 2021 TIFF Docs slate, director Alison Klayman’s film charts the musician’s meteoric rise, as told by Morissette herself. And yes, her Ottawa upbringing and love of music are accounted for here, as is her time on the iconic Canadian kids’ show You Can’t Do That On Television and her crimped hair dance-pop days, which will surely surprise some viewers.
More than a surface-level treatment of her career, Klayman includes not just the key figures in Morissette’s career like Glen Ballard, but presents her sound in the greater context of the male-dominated, largely white alt-rock scene of the mid-1990s.
Garbage’s Shirley Manson reminds viewers that this was a time without many female-fronted acts on the scene. It was a world where radio couldn’t – wouldn’t – plays songs by two female artists in a row, no matter how hard they rocked. At the same time, the predominantly male music critics couldn’t make sense of this “angry white female”, peppering every article and interview with questions like “Why is Alanis so angry?” But Jagged is not just an entertaining trip down memory lane. Though she looks fabulous, happy, and peaceful at 47, the singer-songwriter doesn’t hold back the harsh truths of her career – including non-consensual sexual advances from older men while on tour as a 15-year-old, having male tour mates (including Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins) whose sexual conquests went against everything her feminist anthems stood for, and how scrutiny on her image led to continual recovery from a decades-long eating disorder.
With personal home and tour video, Jagged gives new insight into the formerly long-locked ‘90s persona (who still won’t spill the tea on who exactly “You Oughta Know” is about) that will have new and old fans reaching for a copy of Jagged Little Pill.
Jagged has both in-person and digital screenings during TIFF. The documentary is expected to premiere on HBO this fall.