Nothing Compares Movie Review (2022)

O’Connor quickly found success. She had that extraordinary voice, with impeccable clarity and the ability to go from a whisper to a shout while staying in key. And she had that instantly iconic look, the androgynous contrast between her shaved head, leather jacket and boots and her mesmerizing, long eyelashes.

She also became pregnant at 20, just as her album was released. The discussion of the record company’s reaction to her pregnancy and the design of the album covers – a less confrontational version for the US – is one of the film’s most powerful revelations.

This is not your typical “behind the music” documentary. It does not strive to be comprehensive either as a biography, as an overview of an entire artistic career or as cultural commentary. There is no effort to cover O’Connor’s marriages, religion, name changes, her mental illness challenges or even the last 11 albums she has produced. The focus is on what will be the first line of O’Connor’s obituary: on “Saturday Night Live,” she sang a Bob Marley song about racism with lyrics based on a speech to the United Nations by Haile Selassie. And then she held up a photograph of the Pope and tore it in half. The film reveals, as O’Connor did in her memoir, that her reason was as personal as it was political; it was the photograph that was on the wall in her mother’s home.

It caused a furore. The audience applauded when the subsequent SNL host Joe Pesci says he would have hit her. “Saturday Night Live” had too Phil Hartman as Frank Sinatra calling Jan Hooks as O’Connor a “bald chicken”. Radio stations vowed never to play her music again, and protests included a bulldozer running over O’Connor’s CDs.

Manager Kathryn Ferguson and her co-authors Eleanor Emptage and Michael Mallie wants us to think about the way O’Connor’s influence is reflected in today’s outspoken female artists, a legacy they consider more significant than the Prince song about lost love. A collection of quick cuts at the end isn’t quite convincing of O’Connor’s influence, but her story and her voice are impactful enough.

Premieres on Showtime on September 30.

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