Monday, February 1, 2016

Netflix Instant Queue Movie Review: "What Happened, Miss Simone?" (2015)

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Movie"What Happened, Miss Simone?"
Director: Liz Garbus
Year: 2015
Rating: UR
Running Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes

A look into the life of legendary Jazz singer and activist Nina Simone. 

"What Happened, Miss Simone?" is an Academy Award nominated documentary about the life of the late legendary jazz singer Nina Simone. This movie is constructed from archived interviews with Nina herself, as well as her ex-husband/manager. It also features new interviews with her friends and band mates, but the majority of the film is comprised of interviews with Simone's daughter, Lisa. Nina Simone's journey began in preschool, when she grew up in the segregated South. She had big dreams, even as a child, and wanted to become the first black classical pianist. As she got older, Simone found that many opportunities would not be afforded to her and she would be excluded simply because of the color of her skin; this included being denied a scholarship into the institute of music in Philadelphia. She never had a passion for singing, but became a lounge singer out of necessity and to make ends meet. As she got more and more comfortable with expressing her voice through song, Simone eventually had many hits and rose to stardom with her soulful, sultry voice.

Like many artists, she lived with her demons on a regular basis. Her husband Don Ross was abusive to her, but she still refused to leave him. This happened before and after the birth of their daughter Lisa. As the civil rights movement progressed, Nina Simone became more and more involved in activism, and her music became more and more political in nature. This all came at the cost of her mainstream popularity. Simone's transition into more politically charged music baffled her husband and caused many arguments with him. As time moved on, Simone became more radicalized, throwing her support behind militant, violent dissenters. She became so disillusioned with America and its treatment of black people that she left the country entirely, leaving her wedding ring and daughter behind.

As with many artists, Simone's is a story of both tragedy and triumph. In "What Happened, Miss Simone?," we get a deep, introspective look at the thoughts behind the actions Nina took during her life. We also discover just exactly what her demons were, from her anger issues and flaring temperament to her self-medication. This documentary is not the best one we have seen, and it's not even the best documentary about a musician from 2015. It is, however, chock full of information and exploration about all the different things that happened in Simone's life. What led her down her life path? How did she balance the pressures of performing and raising her daughter? The decisions she made during her life affected her career, her family, and those around her, and it's interesting to find out how she basically slipped into obscurity for a large portion of her career. If you love documentaries or just enjoy the musical stylings of Nina Simone, check this one out.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "Mortdecai"

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