‘Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl’ is no-frills delve into singer’s battle with music industry

review of documentary about kate nash
Kate Nash/Courtesy

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Grade: 3.5/5.0

British music icon Kate Nash seems to have done it all. From being a beloved pop singer to a TV wrestler, Nash has a slew of triumphs under her belt. But Nash’s rosy beginnings and current affairs swaddle a few dark and difficult years, which the documentary “Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl” winds through. 

“Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl,” directed by Amy Goldstein, paints Nash as nothing other than an ordinary girl with a love for music. Displays of Nash’s many quirks are scattered throughout the film, such as her playfulness, sarcasm and British charm. She seems like a down-to-earth musician, lovingly relatable and simply trying to make it in a male-dominated industry.

The film spends a majority of its chronology on Nash’s struggles as a female musician, suddenly skyrocketed to fame and subsequently unable to put her own voice into her music. While it provides a unique perspective through the eyes of a relatively underrated member of the music industry, the layering of events on top of this narrative is clunky and often underwhelming in allowing viewers to fully feel the emotions Nash projects.

“Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl” starts out slow, focusing on Nash’s humble beginnings releasing music on Myspace. Nash describes herself as “a silly teenage girl writing in her diary,” taking the U.K. by storm in 2007 with her debut album Made of Bricks. The film makes an admirable attempt to transition between Nash’s prime and her childhood, but suffers from abruptness.

Throughout the film, Nash states that she has often felt the need to stop making music due to her struggles with the industry’s pressure on female artists. But something or another keeps rekindling her love for the craft and her fans. Marked by touching clips of Nash performing with fans passionately singing along with her, Nash’s coming into her own is but a fleeting moment, not only as presented in the film but also in terms of her career security.

As Nash pursues the transition from soft pop to a more punk sound, she’s dropped from her label midtour. Through home video clips and simple, straightforward interview snippets of Nash, the whole ordeal is given a strangely small amount of screen time for such a pivotal event. Regardless, Nash’s pointed insights make up for the poor editing.

The film overall does a particularly good job of showing the nuances of Nash’s inner workings and drive. Through just short segments, the film unveils the true nature of Nash: her fear of being unable to bounce back, her contempt for her creativity being stifled and the heart she pours into everything she does. But unlike Nash’s bright personality and fiery nature, the film is rather lackluster, though still chugs on like her determination.

The film is peppered with breaths of fresh air, however, such as when viewers are startled by Nash’s devastating realization that her manager has been embezzling her personal funds. Nash’s journey takes a somber turn, and the following years of her life are gut-wrenchingly laid out. But like the powerhouse she is, Nash makes a comeback by funding her 2018 record Yesterday Was Forever entirely through Kickstarter, receiving overwhelming support from fans and landing her a starring role in Netflix’s TV series, “GLOW.”

“Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl” is an inspiring tale of Nash’s pitfalls and hopeful moments. Bashing heads with the conformity of the music industry, Nash is just a normal girl making music who is put through the ringer of bureaucracy. It’s clear that she has hit rock bottom as a musician when she utters the disheartening statement, “I’m into punk music and rock music, and I need to make a pop record because I don’t have any money.” 

The film is far from polished and is quite awkward in the lengths of individual scenes, but it is real, tangible and effective in bringing viewers along for Nash’s rollercoaster of a career. Despite it all, the film emphasizes how Nash has come out ceaselessly smiling, and documents her unwavering motivation to uplift young girls interested in music even while she finds herself almost driven to homelessness.

The film would be more cohesive with increased additions of Nash’s personal insight and a more streamlined edit, instead of relying on bits of somewhat relevant videos that fail to do her touching story justice. But, “Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl” does what it says it will do — it tells the story of a girl who is tired of being underestimated, and is instead persistent and ready to take back her voice and sound.

Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected].