Milli Vanilli (2023) Movie Review – A cautionary tale regarding the price of fame

A cautionary tale regarding the price of fame

Paramount+, in association with MTV, has been doing a brilliant job as of late with the release of numerous music documentaries about topics of the past in the industry. This week’s newest release centers on a documentary that covers one of the biggest jokes the music industry has ever played on us and itself: the rise and fall of the pop duo Milli Vanilli. Only it doesn’t feel like a joke, as it begins to unravel and eventually goes too far.

We have all heard the story by now, even if we happened to be born after it. Milli Vanilli was a pop duo put together over in Germany that made waves overseas in America and shot the duo to super stardom. Only there was one thing we all didn’t know at the time: they were a lip sync band. And to go a step further, they were lip-syncing over other people’s vocals.

The group was a pairing of Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, two young men hungry for fame as they worked up the ranks as models and backup dancers. Interestingly, they were actually a musical act that was not well known at first. But they were also broke, and when they encountered German music producer Frank Farian, “a pact with the devil was made.”

Milli Vanilli would become a packaged product for the industry, consisting of two highly attractive black men performing what would eventually become unforgettable R&B songs. “Girl You Know It’s True” and “Blame It on the Rain” would become earworms for all who heard them. The catch was that Rob and Fab weren’t singing them.

Director Luke Korem gets a list of interviewees for this film, which gives you an inside look at how this scam was created for music lovers. The only person missing to be interviewed was Frank Farian, and maybe Clive Davis, of course. Some of the more impactful interviews are with the actual singers on the Milli Vanilli tracks. Some are bitter and sound like they are owed a residual check. Others are at peace with it in terms of what Milli Vanilli has evolved into.

It’s also insane to think about how some of these record executives were interviewed and how the wool was pulled over their eyes by this duo being a supposed fraud. But in the end, the real interview that is the heartbeat of the film comes from Fab Morvan. Out of the duo of Milli Vanilli, he is the surviving one. Rob would die in 1998 due to a drug overdose. He never fully recovered from the fallout of Milli Vanilli being exposed after their Grammy win.

The Milli Vanilli documentary could have been a run-of-the-mill film full of tabloid news, but it’s not; it’s smarter than that. It’s a survivalist story and a cautionary tale about the price of fame. The music industry is hailed as one of the most brutal, soul-sucking industries around. Seeing Fab still going at the end of the doc, now with a family, is a hopeful moment after all he has gone through. And the fact that Rob couldn’t escape childhood demons that got the best of him after the Milli Vanilli fallout is incredibly tragic. A music journalist who’s interviewed in the film said it best: “No crimes were committed, but a life was lost.”

Milli Vanilli does the right thing and ends with hopefulness for all parties involved, with maybe the exception of music producer Frank Farian. Charles Shaw, one of the real singers, claims that Farian “made most of his money off of black artists, and it worked.” Fab still performs and lives in Amsterdam. Some of the singers who actually sang the songs seem to have a good life, appreciate what the music has become, and try to ignore the dark cloud over Milli Vanilli’s legacy.


Read More: Milli Vanilli Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 9/10

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