What’s Love Got to Do with It? (1993)


Go Straight to Hell, Ike

Lest we jump to the conclusion that I’m a racist, allow me to assure you that I had a hankering to watch today’s movie long before it was requested of me to watch The Bodyguard.  I didn’t just watch The Bodyguard and say to myself, “Black people are very similar, and this movie reminds me of another movie about a black singer.”  It had simply been a really long time since the last time I had watched today’s movie, and talks between my roommate and I had driven us to want to rewatch it.  I found it at Best Buy for $5 and decided it was time.  Today’s movie is based on the life of another black songstress, and this time one that’s still alive, so I have no room to make inappropriate “dead person” jokes.  But this movie opens me up for plenty of other inappropriate “spousal abuse” jokes.  So let’s get into it, with my review of What’s Love Got to Do with It?, written by Kate Lanier, directed by Brian Gibson, and starring Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, Tina Turner, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Jenifer Lewis, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, Khandi Alexander, and Barry Henley.

It’s a difficult thing to describe a movie that just follows the life of someone famous, but here goes: This is Tina Turner’s life, give or take a few truths.  The end.  To give you a little more, she starts off as Anna Mae Bullock (Angela Bassett), a fairly naive young black lass from Tennessee.  She moves in with her mom and sister and starts going to a club where she develops a crush on a local singer named Ike Turner (Laurence Fishburne).  She gets up on stage one night and turns out to be a very good singer, so Ike pounces.  They begin to develop a certain degree of fame, and a romance develops right along with it.  They eventually get married and her name inexplicably changes to Tina Turner.  I thought Ike and Anna sounds just as good as Ike and Tina, but they begged to differ.  Over time, fame brings a cheerful white powder to the nose of Ike, which in turn brings a less cheerful black fist to the face of Tina.  Ike starts getting abusive and Tina just ignores it … or becomes brain damaged by it.  Who can tell?  Eventually, Tina’s probably going to want to remember what it’s like to see the world out of both eyes and leave Ike, and I have a feeling this plucky young broad will do alright.

I had a hard time formulating an opinion of this movie, but I think I’ve worked one out by now.  I liked the movie, but I feel like the story shouldn’t get that many of the kudos.  The writers can kind of breeze through it because it’s just based on a book that was based on the life of a real person, but they did throw a couple of things in that didn’t actually happen for emotional emphasis.  I guess the most accurate way to describe how I feel about it is that Tina Turner’s life was a great story, and this movie didn’t fuck it up.  Part of the problem I had with the movie is that I had seen it before, but probably right around when it came out.  In the ensuing years, I’ve forgotten it almost completely.  And what I hadn’t forgotten was the beatings, so I found myself waiting for those to happen with a level of excitement I should feel bad about.  I can’t say I didn’t find the movie interesting by any stretch, but we should all be acquainted with how I feel about dramas by now.  This one is a lot more tolerable than most dramas as it has a happy ending.  I can’t bring myself to consider it a spoiler that Ike and Tina don’t work out, Ike walks alone into the night with subtitles informing us that he later got caught with drugs and arrested, but not being able to inform us that he also died from cocaine overdose because that happened 14 years after the movie came out.  It also ends with the real Tina Turner singing “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” and giving us an unnecessary subtitle that she’s doing alright in her music career.  Since I’ve already compared this movie to The Bodyguard, I’ll keep it up a little.  In comparison to The Bodyguard, this one can’t really match it in the song category.  I can’t claim that I’ve ever been that big of a Tina Turner fan, but this movie did give me the two songs of her’s I know and enjoy, those being “Proud Mary” and “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”  Tina’s got a different and interesting voice, but I just preferred Whitney Houston’s.  The only thing in this movie that confused me was the chant that she gets obsessed with at one point in the movie.  I admit that I know nothing about Buddhism, but I would assume that the entire thing is not just chanting “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” in front of some candles, let alone being called that.  If it works for you, that’s great, but I assume it wouldn’t change my life one bit to kneel in front of something that was on fire and repeat some words.  And that’s coming from a lifelong Christian!

The story didn’t impress me in this movie all that much.  What should truly impress anybody is the performances, and pretty much all of them.  Angela Bassett was pretty damned impressive in this role.  She starts off super innocent and naive, but she gets that beaten out of her by about halfway into the movie.  She then becomes a pretty timid character that mostly just tries not to rile up Ike.  At the end of the movie, she becomes the Tina Turner we want her to be: one that spouts gibberish at candles and kicks Ike in his smug fuckin’ nuts.  Yeah, she still got fucked up in that fight, but you shoulda seen the other guy.  The biggest thing that kept occurring to me through the entire movie was how little sense it made for Tina to be getting beaten up by Ike in the first place.  Bassett had fucking super hero arms!  I am not too much of a man (by a long shot) to admit that Bassett scared me with how ripped and muscular she was in this movie.  Plus, I’m a little afraid of what she might do to me if I didn’t admit it.  I was actually envious of her arms!  She had a vein in her bicep!  It also made me confused, because when they showed the real Tina Turner at the end, she was nowhere near that level of ripped.  And it was weird to me that Angela Bassett was able to still be attractive somehow, even though hugging her could leave me in traction.  Laurence Fishburne was also pretty impressive.  He acted exactly as you’d expect that kind of guy to act.  He starts off seeming like a pretty nice, if a little cocky, guy.  You start to see him get really jealous of Tina because he’s always going to play second fiddle to her.  It escalates first into verbal abuse, and the cocaine gets that kicked up a notch into the physical department.  I believed his performance the entire time, but I also found myself thinking that he was doing a Samuel L. Jackson impression for parts of it.

I was perhaps a bit harsh to imply that the writers of this movie should be considered transcribers instead.  They did a good job taking a person’s life and turning it into a movie, so I guess I’ll at least muster up a golf clap.  The real reason to see this movie is the performances by the two stars, and that’s worth the price of admission alone.  I don’t know what they went up against the year the movie came out, but I would not have argued if both Bassett and Fishburne got Oscars for this movie.  It’s definitely a good watch, and since you can purchase the movie for $5 from Best Buy, I think we can all agree that’s a fair price to pay.  What’s Love Got to Do with It? gets “Eat the cake, Anna Mae” out of “If you die on me, bitch, I’ll kill you!”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!

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