IN BRIEF: Well made and informative documentary about a pop music icon.
JIM'S REVIEW: (RECOMMENDED) Tina, a riveting documentary, solidly directed by Dan Lindsey and T. J. Martin, covers familiar ground for those who are aware of this pop superstar's mercurial life. Those unaware of this singer's painful beginnings...I'm sure there are very few in the world...may be surprised. The filmmakers mix archival footage, photos, musical performances, and interviews with those closest to her. The documentary also has Ms. Turner front and center to unfold her tale. (She retired in 2009 at the age of 70.)
This is a straightforward retelling of events, chronologically told. No flashbacks or jumping back and forth that seems so commonplace nowadays. Its linear narrative structure comes in numbered chapters and it is refreshing and concise. Born Anna Mae Bullock, her childhood abandonment by her parents and life of poverty and neglect were only the start of her many hardships. Her life story begins from her rise to stardom and her abusive relationship with her Svengali husband and muse, Ike Turner. Most of her traumatic marriage was kept secret until she finally reveal the domestic abuse issues in 1981, hoping for a catharsis which never quite happened. Moviegoers see her fall from grace, her struggles in the music industry, and her huge comeback as a solo artist, all leading to a storybook ending with her loving spouse, Erwin Bach.
During the film, Tina states that the bad moments in her life outweigh the good. However, the wounds still seem gapingly open and the scarring of this strong woman remains obvious. While there is enough tragedy in her life to doom anyone, Ms. Turner is foremost, a survivor. Her violent past with Ike still continue to haunt her these many years. Love seemed MIA in her personal life, although her professional world became one of adoration and success due to her determination and talent.
The film glosses over some events, especially her early solo outings in the late 70's and early 80's or her spotty film career. Half of the documentary focuses on her early beginnings with Ike and then rushes through her later career highlights. Ms. Turner herself is interviewed and at times, refuses to relive and discuss those scenes of horror and violence, understandingly so. While it does leave some gaps in the storytelling, those telling omissions convey a person suffering from PTSD and unable to come to terms with her troubled past life. Oddly, only one son, Craig, to whom she dedicates the film, shares his recollection of his dysfunctional childhood and hate for his father's vicious acts of violence. Her other three sons never enter the scenario.
Of course, the musical concert footage is sensational. While early song hits are fragmented and sacrificed to the dramatic story, the filmmakers wisely showcase many musical concert moments in their entirety. Footage of a few later hits (Help, I Can See the Rain, Simply the Best) provide the whole version to these songs via concert footage and they are mesmerizing.
With a performer this legendary, one always wants more. Tina is a fascinating film that gives us a candid view of a music icon's life, with behind-the-scenes views and center stage where she belongs. (GRADE: B)
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