"Mystify: Michael Hutchence" Movie Review

Updated on January 24, 2020
popcollin profile image

Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).

Michael Hutchence: Mystify
Michael Hutchence: Mystify | Source

In the mid-1980s there were few men who could claim rock god status quite like Michael Hutchence. The hugely charismatic lead singer of INXS burst on the scene with his band’s first big hit, 1985’s “What You Need” (though true fans remember as far back as 1982’s “The One Thing” and “Don’t Change”, which enjoyed decent MTV airplay at the time).

Twelve short years and seven albums later, Michael Hutchence was gone, leaving behind one heck of a musical legacy along with a slew of questions and conjectures about what could possibly make this quintessential front man want to take his own life. With Richard Lowenstein’s intimate and ultimately heart-wrenching documentary Mystify: Michael Hutchence, we finally get some clarity and understanding.

Lowenstein, an Australian director who befriended the band early on and went on to direct 16 of INXS’s music videos, has been working on Mystify for more than a decade, giving the project the required due diligence, convincing the people who knew him best to share their memories. From Hutchence’s parents to his bandmates to his famous girlfriends to Bono, there is no voice missing from the film, and the result is a comprehensive and honest account that bears watching—not only among INXS fans but for anyone who appreciates documentary filmmaking as an important and necessary art form.

Beginning with Hutchence’s grade school days and continuing through his tragic 1997 suicide, Mystify delicately paints a portrait of a man often compared to The Doors’ Jim Morrison, not only because of his premature death and star quality but his volatility. After watching the film, however, it’s clear that Marilyn Monroe may be a more apt comparison. We learn early on how the singer’s biggest fear was just being lonely and that he spent his days reading Camus and Ginsberg and Sartre. And the tidy little bow comes when Lowenstein gives us Hutchence singing Monroe’s staple “I Wanna Be Loved By You”. Mystify never draws the parallel out loud, but by the end of the film, the similarities are obvious and provide illuminating insight into the famously enigmatic and private man.

The bombshell moment of Mystify comes almost two-thirds of the way through, as then-girlfriend Helena Christensen relates a story of how Hutchence sustained brain damage after an altercation on a Copenhagen street in 1992. The vastly under-reported story and its dire consequences (Hutchence kept it all a secret throughout his life) seem to instantly make everything crystal clear, as if Lowenstein knew he could, in one moment, set the record completely straight, leaving no doubt in our minds as to the extent of the issues with which his old friend was coping.

Credit also to Lowenstein for bucking the documentary trend and instead giving us a film where the only interview subject’s face we ever see is Hutchence himself. Even though the director interviewed more than 60 people, he used only their audio in the finished film, avoiding the pitfall of modern-day talking heads breaking up the film’s mood. “I wanted to actually immerse in a time capsule, like go back to those years," Lowenstein told a crowd at a recent Tribeca screening.

A time capsule indeed, Lowenstein’s exquisitely crafted film teaches us definitively that few have ever done it as well as the great Michael Hutchence while simultaneously coping with so much and ultimately paying so high a price. It’s a tragic tale, to be sure, but one that finally gives the consummate rock god his due.


4.5/5 stars

'Michael Hutchence: Mystify' trailer


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)