Review: ‘Miss Sharon Jones!’ Heals The Soul With Music
When popular soul singer Sharon Jones is stricken with cancer, only high spirits and the healing power of music can get her back on tour in the intimate documentary ‘Miss Sharon Jones!’
It’s hard NOT to be in awe of the incredible bundle of energy packed in the petite frame that is soul songstress Sharon Jones. When in prime form, Jones’ onstage antics rival that of late soul godfather James Brown with a dash of Tina Turner. One cannot help but to be mesmerized by her powerful vocals and fully-aware stage presence, engaging both the audience and her Dap King co-musicians. That makes the ‘Miss Sharon Jones!’ experience brutally intimate as we’re suddenly ripped away from joyful clippings of her luminescent live performances and thrust into the harsh reality of her hyper serious diagnosis and hopeful struggle to quickly recover.
Documentary Score – 3.5
‘Miss Sharon Jones!’ strips away the tough, fan adored, road-seasoned musician facade and puts the spotlight on the person behind the music, the REAL Sharon Jones, as she faces a challenge much tougher than any presented by an unforgiving music business. While hopeful and supportive as the singer begins her journey to defeat the cancer that plagues her, Jones’ friends, manager and bandmates must face the painfully grim reality that there may be no future.
The under-five-foot frontwoman of the underground Brooklyn-based funk ensemble the Dap-Kings, bares her soul in a way she never has before for director Barbara Kopple’s latest documentary. For those already acquainted with Jones’ career, this will be a wonderful and edifying insight into her life behind the scenes and her dynamic with the Dap-Kings. For those who have yet to be introduced, this will likely serve as an awe-inducing pleasure, showcasing a fighting spirit juxtaposed against her soul healing music.
‘Miss Sharon Jones!’ is more than just another survivor story, it’s a celebration of Heart, Soul and the Human Spirit!
Kopple’s extreme care with a sensitive subject matter, such as cancer, was evident throughout the film. The presentation did well to never exploit or draw sympathy for what Jones was facing, rather showcasing her triumphant fighting spirit as well as her uplifting and positive attitude. At the same time, Kopple keeps things intimate by including some of the more raw, yet appropriate, moments to add depth to the story of Jones’ journey.
‘Miss Sharon Jones!’ doesn’t only dwell on the state of the singers health. The film dives into Jones’ history as well as a brief look at soul music when she returns to her hometown of Augusta, S.C., where both she and the soul godfather James Brown were born. Jones recounts the blatant racism that vexed her as a child, adding yet another chapter to her encyclopedia of telling experiences.
While the presentation is uplifting, it does tend to re-hash itself a bit and some of the more redundant bits could be clipped to make for a brisker pace. But overall, the film does manage to both rouse attention while also capturing the uplifting warrior-spirit of Sharon Jones. Kopple takes the subject matter far beyond the traditional Behind-The-Music template and gives audiences a truly inspirational and intimate experience with ‘Miss Sharon Jones!’
Watch the official trailer for ‘Miss Sharon Jones!’ below:
- Documentary Score
Kopple takes the subject matter far beyond the traditional Behind-The-Music template and gives audience a truly inspirational and intimate experience with 'Miss Sharon Jones!' While on the surface the subject matter of cancer seems depressing, this film does more to uplift the spirit than it does to relish in human anguish. Worth a watch for any documentary lover and music lover.
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