To say that Tina Turner is a music icon is a huge understatement. She’s the original Queen of rock & roll and a force of nature. I was too young to appreciate her when she was with Ike and first made her name. But when she made her comeback after leaving him in the 80s, I saw her on stage and she was electrifying! She was pushing 50, but she owned that stage, strutting up and down stairs in platform heels with the energy of someone half her age. I was in awe and kind of in love. Not only was she a performer like no other, but her stage presence was that of a kind person who adored pleasing us all. This new documentary from Oscar-winning directors Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin leads its audience through her turbulent life and career through interviews with Tina, and her friends and family, some never before seen video, and fabulous performance footage that makes you love her all the more. It’s the story of one of music’s greatest female performers who thankfully rose from the ashes after years in a violent relationship.
If you saw and loved 1993’s What’s Love Got to Do with It, which starred Angela Bassett as Tina, you already know a lot of what this doc covers – her meeting Ike, their rise, his jealousy, the abuse, her escape, and her comeback. That film was based on her autobiography “I, Tina,” though parts strayed from the real facts because the studio believed the audience would not believe them. What this film does is correct the record, go deeper, and offer up fresh insights from Tina herself, now 81-years-old and decades removed from the trauma. Others who add memories and fill in gaps include Angela Bassett, Oprah, Katori Hall, Tina’s son who was forced to listen silently as his father raped and beat her to a pulp, and members of the Ike & Tina revue who all knew what was happening, but were too afraid of Ike’s volatility to do anything to save her.
One of most compelling parts of the doc is the story of how Roger Davies, who became her manager when she went solo, talked her into going public with the abuse so she could let the public know she and Ike were no longer linked in any way. It’s a very early #MeToo story and she was incredibly brave to have done it. She did fear that he’d come after her, but it also made her feel free at last. But it was still impossible to lay the past to rest. The press still asked her in every single interview about him. And so she wrote her autobiography with co-author Kurt Loder, another of the interviewees in the film. And while it was a huge success, the questions about Ike and the years of abuse were all anyone asked about. Even when the book was filmed, it still framed her as the victim and brought up all the pain she’d lived through.
Fortunately though, her newfound Buddhist practice and meeting her future husband Erwin Bach did finally bring her peace. The last chapter of the film is about love. Having been denied any for the first 50 years of her life — her parents abandoned her, her husband/partner was incapable of it, she felt entirely unlovable — she met the love of her life and married him. She’s still trying to shift the narrative about her life to the positive. Not sure how going over the pain yet again in this doc works towards that end, but seeing her happy really does make you happy for her. She’s one-of-a-kind, an amazing performer, a brave survivor, a trail-blazer. You can’t help but love her.
[Mainstream Chick’s take: No question, Tina Turner is a force of nature. I love watching her energy, which the documentary captures quite well in the performance and rehearsal footage. I didn’t really learn anything new, though, especially having somewhat recently (pre-pandemic) seen TINA on the West End in London. It shares a similar narrative, while also offering the energy of a live performance. The documentary could have been a bit tighter, but it’s a good introduction for music fans unfamiliar with her story and her “comeback” – which she rightly describes as her debut… Tina Turner – without Ike. For everyone else, it’s a reminder of why she’s a music icon. And those legs. Sheesh. Where can I buy a pair? -hb]
The film premiers on HBO and HBO MAX Saturday, Mar 27th at 8:00pm ET
It’s Available On Demand beginning Sunday, March 28th