Movies » Movie Reviews & Stories

Shut Up and Play the Hits

Soundsystem concert film reaches for grandiosity while its subject tamps it down


  • Courtesy photo

Shut Up and Play the Hits


★★★★ (out of 5 stars)

LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy was never the standard model of a rock star. A stocky 32-year-old DJ when the electronic act broke into the quasi-mainstream in 2002, Murphy, along with friends Nancy Whang, Pat Mahoney, Tyler Pope and an assortment of musical interlopers, released three self-written, mostly self-performed albums in seven years before announcing his and the band's retirement last year. Refreshingly stripped of pretense or grander purpose, Murphy told The Colbert Report at the time, "I'm 41. At a certain point, I think [rock stardom] gets embarrassing."

In Shut Up and Play the Hits, showing at Enzian Theater for one night only (11:59 p.m. Wednesday, July 18), directors Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern (with additional camerawork by, among others, Spike Jonze and Lance Bangs) seem to crave the exact lofty meaning behind LCD Soundsystem's Madison Square Garden farewell show that Murphy deliberately left out. Whether lingering on the teary-eyed in the crowd or voyeuristically capturing the one sentimental moment Murphy allows himself, the film is weighed down slightly by its unrequited reverence; it's shot like a love letter to a man with one foot out the door.

Setting that gripe aside, though, Play the Hits flat-out works. From the noise-drenched opening credits to the final, bittersweet song, the concert footage – a DVD of the entire nearly four-hour show is reportedly in the works – pulses with excitement. Passing the exposition along to culture critic Chuck Klosterman in the form of a real-life sit-down interview for The Guardian is a masterful choice, as is the film's studious avoidance of bland bio segments or talking-head contextualizing. What emerges is a portrait of stardom as not a tangible goal but the byproduct of a hobby-turned-full-time-job.

LCD Soundsystem, for all intents and purposes, was simply James Murphy. He played nearly all the instruments on all the records, so what exactly can he retire from? Without even directly posing the question, Shut Up and Play the Hits answers it, anyway: The band was a project that reached completion. James Murphy, on the other hand, is a work in progress.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.