After the 1995 release of Canadian singer Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” it seemed like songs like “You Oughta Know,” “Hand in My Pocket” and “Ironic” were pouring out of every radio, turntable and CD player in the world. The album was a juggernaut, vaulting to the top of the charts and making Morissette a superstar in the process.
“Jagged,” a new documentary from director Alison Klayman, details Morissette’s early Canadian success, her rise to fame, the making of the album and the exploitation she suffered as a teen star.
At its bedrock “Jagged” features an amiable interview from Morissette, barefoot, curled up in a chair recounting the events of her life. It should be noted that the singer has since denounced the film as “salacious” and “reductive” and “not the story I agreed to tell.” Nonetheless, in the interview she appears to be open, forthright and helps capture the excitement of her sudden ascent to fame.
The early years section covers her as a young pop star, often treated as a commodity by the record industry. Puberty brought with it an eating disorder, sexual harassment and a dip in popularity. A move to Los Angeles offered an opportunity for reinvention, and, working with co-writer Glen Ballard, she crafted the rock-oriented “Jagged Little Pill” which would on to sell more than 33 million copies globally.
Here the film makes good use of concert footage and home movies to portray the whirlwind of the journey from unknown to superstar, from clubs to stadiums. It provides context in terms of time and place and the fortunes of women in rock at the time.
The one question everyone seems to want answered—Who, exactly is “You Oughta Know” about?—however, goes largely unanswered.
What “Jagged” does best is give Morissette her due as someone who weathered the storm of worldwide success, and emerged on the other side, bloodied but unbowed.
While occasionally feeling like a music video, “Jagged” does capture the surreal energy that comes along with roaring to “overnight” fame.