Rapper G Herbo relays a message about the fine line between artistic expression and reality in Juice Wrld: Into the Abyss – which is a prominent issue in hip-hop – the documentary weaves this notion about the blinding effects of music. He talks about how when he was having a good or bad day he would still consume just as much Juice. But sometimes nobody hears those messages. Hip-Hop has always been about the message, and it can easily get lost as the genre evolves. Danny Brown, like Juice Wrld, is a rapper who had to explain that his music was full of cautionary tales, so if the music is hyphy, the verses may not reflect it. Unfortunately, that has been the case for Juice Wrld, and Juice Wrld: Into the Abyss fails to set the record straight.
If I’m being blunt, Juice Wrld: Into the Abyss is a culmination of interviews, which make up 15 minutes of its 109-minute run-time and a story told through a series of footage collected throughout his career by longtime videographer Christopher Long. The footage offers a glimpse of a genius at work as he struggles with his demons and masks them with incessant drug use. Unfortunately, it barely expresses that as the film gives us the work of analyzing it like a psychologist/psychiatrist. But the film is unlike what you’d expect, given the material – musically and contextually. As a fan, you have to keep an open mind, as I did and what you get isn’t a portrait. What you get is a slightly half-assed portrait that delivers images constructed with a one-note direction until the ride reaches its stop.
In the Kid Cudi documentary A Man Named Scott, they incorporate the portrayal of his music and the lyricism that helped a collection of fans when they hit their low points. It’s the same for many artists, and for hip-hop, it’s central to the themes and their directness, which creates relatability between artist and fan. Juice Wrld – for lack of a better term – is the epitome of relatability, and that is where Juice Wrld: Into the Abyss misses the mark. It spends a lot of time describing Juice Wrld, the artist, and never Juice Wrld, the person.
The construct of the artist is there; however, it spends too much focus on it. We see Juice Wrld creating; we see Juice Wrld perplexing interviewers with cadence, talent, and age – that gives this side justice. It’s great to see him have fun with friends like Ski Mask the Slump Dog and G Herbo, as Juice reflected the youth within. It’s delightful to see his unparalleled creating process on full display. Unfortunately, the dark side gets relegated to a few shots and interviews, here and there. I’m left bamboozled that his music plays a significant part of these various layers of art and the human mind, but the how is through showing what seems like an occasional day for Juice Wrld. We see him mixing codeine in sprite bottles, sticking his tongue out with five to six tabs of Percocets, and consistently looking fucked up. We never know if his day was awesome or if it was poor, and not understanding that until your told later on creates a backlog of the imagery we’ve seen prior. There are scenes of him consuming and making music, but it’s just being shown instead of using it to create unique parallels with it.
Juice Wrld’s music, like illustrious hits “Lucid Dreams” and “Lean Wit Me,” are touched on swiftly with less-than-interesting graphics. The two speak on Juice’s depression and addiction and the consequences that come from it – yet, here it is, reminding you how great each of the songs are without breaking apart that first layer. Juice is a rockstar, and a rockstar brings an eclectic array of fans, and it doesn’t translate with the concert audience as much. So for me, I take a step back and ask about the lyrical side. Who did these songs affect, and why? I want to see the multi-faceted layering of fans who felt saved and heard by Juice Wrld, and at the same time
It’s a disappointment when Juice Wrld: Into the Abyss can have it both ways but fails to deliver a solid product reflective of the subject. But to put it simply, The Abyss is like the sunken place from Get Out (2017) without hypnotism and more poor personal character judgment. It never explains it to you until the film nears the end, and it takes us through a plethora of interviews – some good, some bad. Juice Wrld’s abyss was his mind; the destructive nature of his day-to-day life has him in purgatory with a past to escape. Like G Herbo mentions in his interview, whether the day was good or bad, he found himself replicating similar habits of smoking weed, popping pills, and sipping lean. We see this; we somewhat understand this, but we never feel like they are witnessing the complex layers of Juice’s artistry. It’s a bit infuriating, even though it may not hit the same for other fans watching.
Juice Wrld: Into the Abyss is a documentary that feels the need to implement techniques that feel out-of-the-box, but it never goes anywhere. It does a good job painting an artist who is on his 10th touch-up; however, you yearn for more. You want to see the interplay between song and fans and between Juice Wrld and his demons. Unfortunately, it leaves you with a documentary that is devoid of substance and fails to deliver.