This can’t have been easy

Legendary musician/composer/activist Frank Zappa never had a top ten hit (unless you count “Valley Girl,” although that was done by his daughter Moon Unit as a surprise for her dad). But then he never really wanted one. In fact, he didn’t care about most things that motivate celebrities, even celebrity. What he wanted was to make real all the music chaotically swirling around inside his head. And no, he didn’t care if you liked it.

This is a standard documentary on the life and work of this articulate musical genius. Okay, scratch that “standard,” because filmmaker Alex Winter (the Bill of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) was savvy (and talented) enough to avoid hagiography and present all the archival material at his disposal the way Zappa presented his music: with plenty of attitude, chaos, humor and heart, and then edit it with pure, manic creativity. 

This is engrossing, enlightening and informative multimedia immersion that doesn’t oversell its subject. It’s like spending time inside the man’s head. Completely refreshing (if a tad exhausting). (129 min)