(director/writer: Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin; cinematographers: Megan Stacey/Dimitri Karakatsanis; editor: Taryn Gould/Carter Gurin/T.J. Martin; music: Saunder Jurriaans/Danny Bensi; cast: Angela Bassett, Tina Turner, Oprah Winfrey, Kurt Loder, Katori Hall, Roger Davies, Angela Bassett, Ike Turner, Jimmy Thomas, Carl Arrington, Tim Britten, Erwin Bach, Rupert Perry, Le’Jeune Richardson, Ann Behringer, Rhonda Graam, Zelma Bullock; Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Diane Becker/Simon Chinn/Jonathan Chinn; HBO Documentary Films; 2021)
“Sympathetic and uplifting biopic of Tina Turner, the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Co-directors and co-writers Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin also collaborated together on “Undefeated” and “I Am Dying,” direct with passion this sympathetic and uplifting biopic of Tina Turner, the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll. It tells in five chapters the story of her difficult life and shows that her heart is filled with love (the last chapter is called Love), and it shows the physical abuse the resilient singer overcame to get some respect for herself and to then take the rock world by storm.
Throughout her ordeal, she was unwilling to ever define herself as a victim. In a touching voice, she explains by forgiving her abusive husband, she’s also freeing herself, as she says — “In not forgiving, you suffer, I had an abusive life … that’s what you got. So you have to accept it.”
The film interviews her at 80, at a time she found peace living in Zurich, in retirement, where she is happily married to the former record executive Erwin Bach.
The filmmakers in their tribute film have great access to her, as it provides revealing personal interviews with those close to her, shows never-before-seen footage, plays audio tapes, shows personal photos and footage while she’s performing in concert halls.
Angela Bassett played her in the 1993 biopic “What’s Love Got to Do With It, and glows over her. The Rolling Stone writer Kurt Loder co-authored with her in 1986 her biography I, Tina, and Katori Hall also wrote a life story on her. Both speak warmly of her. Roger Davies became her Brit manager when she went solo after divorcing the sicko Ike, in the late 1970s after 19 years of marriage, and was told by Tina that she wanted to be the first Black woman rock ‘n’ roller to pack in crowds in stadiums like Jagger. Jimmy Thomas was a backup singer, who says she never complained. Carl Arrington in 1981 wrote for People magazine about her abusive life with her cruel and manipulative husband and business partner Ike Turner, and her story went public for the first time changing her image to an even more positive one. Tim Britten wrote her signature song, What’s Love Got To Do With It.
In 2019 a Broadway musical based on her life, made with her cooperation, features her songs, both in partnership with Ike Turner and solo, became her farewell to the American public, as she left her Zurich home to come to NYC. Flanked by her husband Erwin Bach and Oprah Winfrey she entered the theater and received a thunderous ovation. This hit play was followed by this documentary, which she hopes would tell her story the way she wanted it told and would finally end all further questions about her past abuse.
Tina has been retired since 2009.
What the film doesn’t do is offer any critique of her or tell us how she raised her two sons. Its aim is to show how as a naive teen, the daughter of Tennessee sharecroppers who both abandoned her, in 1957 met band leader Ike in St. Louis and how they connected when he made her the singer for his King of Rhythms band. When their successful Ike and Tina Turner act became overbearing because of the abuse, she ran away from the one who discovered her and made her a star. While on tour, one night in a Dallas hotel, she ran out on Ike, and later divorced him in LA (getting only to keep her name). Thereby in the following years after her divorce, on March 29, 1978, she went solo, reinvented herself, working hard in the industry (from Vegas to TV appearances) to be a rock star and eventually she became a legendary figure in the rock world.
In a feminist tale of overcoming adversity despite the odds against it, this crowd-pleasing film points out that it was Buddhism that gave Tina the spiritual strength to leave her Svengali and go it alone.
REVIEWED ON 3/30/2021 GRADE: A-