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'Tomboy' Review: Unadulterated Creativity Clashes With Intimacy

By, Alex Saveliev, Film Threat

Professional drumming has been typically regarded as yet another field dominated by men. Lindsay Lindenbaum’s heartfelt documentary Tomboy focuses on four female drummers, each representing a significant generational paradigm shift. Akin to a drummer herself, Lindenbaum nails each beat, taking us on a bittersweet journey through history while introducing us to lively, engaging, and extremely passionate personalities.

Director, Lindsay Lindenbaum views the future of female drumming through the prism of young Palmdale resident, Bo-Pah. A drummer since early childhood, the eloquent Bo-Pah is also quite pragmatic, speaking of how she needs to get a “real” job, just in case. “If I don’t blow up and become famous, I can’t just not do anything,” she candidly says. For now, she’s having a blast playing with the on-the-rise The Sledge Grits Band. Oh, and she lives with her supportive, gentle dad, who has multiple sclerosis – a subplot that’s bound to shred your hearts to pieces.

Tomboy is filled with fantastic music, courtesy of our lively heroines, but also the perfectly-matched score by tUnE-yArDs. There’s fascinating footage from the 1999 Hole World Tour (Courtney Love jamming out backstage is priceless), as well as BOYTOY touring, albeit on a slightly smaller scale, “somewhere in England.” Lindenbaum masterfully switches between her charming subjects, immersing us into their lives, their histories and futures. What unites them is their infatuation with music, with how it’s both a means of escape and connection.

“People are always underestimating girl drummers,” Bo-Pah says. Though Lindenbaum’s focus is on the plight of female drummers, her film may evoke broader conversations about the influence of women on music, and the entertainment industry in general, at a time when those dialogues are critical. Moreover, it’s a reminder of how difficult it actually is to be a part of a professional band, maintaining the tempo, possessing the ability to think as one.

I do wish it at least mentioned some other celebrated female drummers, like Velvet Underground’s Moe Tucker, The White Stripes’ Meg White, or Sheila E, who toured with Prince, among others. But as a study of four fascinating, powerful female figures, Tomboy is bound to entertain, enlighten, and perhaps bring a tear or two to your eye.


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