Published on July 21st, 2014 | by Allan Brown1
20 Feet From Stardom Review
Movie Review: 20 Feet From Stardom (2013)
Running Time: 91 mins
Director: Morgan Neville
Writer: Morgan Neville
Cast: Darlene Love, Judith Hill, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder, Bette Midler
Following in the footsteps of Marley, Searching Sugar Man and Sound City, 20 Feet from Stardom is the latest Award winning documentary film to focus on the music industry, this time shining a light on its unsung heroes; the backing singer.
Director Morgan Neville negotiates a narrative through a seamless timeline that starts in the early sixties, an era before digital mixing and auto-tune was available to an artist. This meant the emphasis of improving ones voice and the quality of a track was achieved through backing singers.
The film focuses on several key players during this time including; Darlene Love, Merry Clayton and Lisa Fischer taking tremendous care to tell each of their individual stories in turn. From Darlene’s detailed account of being used and swindled by record producing giant Phil Spector in the early 60s, to Merry Clayton’s humorous retelling of the time she was coaxed out of bed in the dead of night, whilst heavily pregnant, to scream ‘Rape, murder/It’s just a shot away’ on The Rolling Stones’ track, Gimmie Shelter. These are just a few of the fascinating titbits 20 Feet from Stardom offers as it guides us through the highs and lows, struggles and missed opportunities throughout the careers of these artists backing for some of the biggest names in the industry. Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen and Sting are but a few of the stars that share their memories and appreciation in candid interviews peppered throughout the film.
It could be argued the presentation of the documentary and its editing is at times, a little dated and perhaps underwhelming. However, the complexities that are coaxed out of the individuals through the many interviews are absolutely golden, and open up the film to being a lot more personal and acute than may have first been anticipated.
What is presented is a truly inspiring, powerful and genuinely moving 91 minute trip into a world that rarely gets the attention or recognition it deserves. 20 Feet from Stardom opens the doors on the individuals who have contributed so much to the industry who here have finally been given a platform to tell their unforgettable story.
Summary: Inspiring, powerful and truly unforgettable, a must see for any music fan.