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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Movie Review - What Happened, Miss Simone?

What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)
Directed by Liz Garbus
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

First off, it's time to get some more Nina Simone music than the very measly amount I currently have sitting in my iTunes library. The obviously feminine, though slightly masculine-y bass of her voice exudes a sly coolness that can't be ignored or denied.  That said, as I discovered in the Oscar-nominated documentary What Happened, Miss Simone, the life of the strong-willed jazz singer was troubled by things both in and out of her control.

Simone's jazzy soul sound was epitomized by her introduction of classical concepts into the jazz world.  A classical pianist, Simone found herself rising in the ranks of the jazz world after being discovered playing the piano in a bar in Atlantic City.  She eventually married her husband Andy who pushed her incredibly hard even after the birth of their daughter Lisa.  Likely because of both the difficulties she had with her husband and her own personal beliefs, Simone found herself keying in to the Civil Rights movement and began to write less marketable (though perhaps more weighty) songs.  Gradually, Simone shifted towards the violent side of the movement, saying at concerts, "Are you ready to smash white things?  Burn buildings?  Kill if necessary?"  Naturally, this caused her career to suffer and Simone lost her appeal with the public.

Liz Garbus's documentary utilizes archived interviews with the singer as well as her personal journals to give us an intriguing glimpse into the life of a talented performer.  In addition to being treated to some lovely performances by Simone, conversations with her daughter Lisa inform us of the imperfect character of the singer.  The flick overstays its welcome a little bit with more than a few moments of repetition in the film's second half, but What Happened, Miss Simone still proves to be worthwhile particularly if the rich-voiced jazz singer has ever captivated you with her tone.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

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