“Miss Sharon Jones!”
Sharon Jones, along with her band, “The Dap Kings” is known for high energy R&B performances that shake the rafters and gets the crowd on their feet. Jones gives such powerful and spirited sets that she is often compared to the legendary James Brown or Tina Turner in their primes. While a hit, especially with live audiences, Jones, and her band have still not quite become household names. Things are looking up, as a new album is about to be released and a world tour is in the planning stages.
Sharon Jones’s personal life has taken quite a few hits, with the recent deaths of her sister, and more recently her number one fan, her mother. Normally a positive and gregarious person, her world is rocked even further when she is diagnosed with Stage Two pancreatic cancer. We are about to go on a ride with Miss Jones as she battles for her life.
This documentary is from the two-time Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple. Kopple’s camera follows Jones, who is talkative and mostly upbeat, as she goes from surgery to remove and reroute her organs, to moving in with a holistic nutritionist to help her with recovery from her chemo treatment. The film contrasts the concert scenes of the past, where Jones is a whirling dervish, to a woman who has lost so much of her strength that she struggles to walk up a flight of stairs. Fighting to survive, you can’t take your eyes off of Jones as she pushes herself to try to keep some of her life moving forward. With a great manager, some willing assistants and a band that truly loves her, she accomplishes more than most people fighting cancer would. We see the small moments between her manager and Jones, as they try to plan out a tour that neither knows will ever be carried out. Jones is acutely aware that her band is not getting paid while she battles on, and that makes her work even harder. Kopple continually inserts old concert footage in between trips to the hospital or Jones’s weak interactions with her staff and friends, showing us just how far she has to go to get back into concert form.
We get to see the smaller moments of Jones’s struggle. You are constantly amazed at her positive attitude and her lust for life, such as when she revels in telling the camera of her seemingly endless list of daytime TV watching or when she interacts with other chemo patients, always with a positive attitude and ear to listen to their stories.
There are three scenes in this film that stand out for me. The first is where Jones, though weak from chemo, blows the roof off of a church service with a gospel song that is incredible in its heartfelt and powerful performance. It’s as if she believes that more she puts into the song, the more she will get strength from it. The second is where she proudly shows off a cover story of the ‘Village Voice” magazine and talks about being rejected early in her career by a record executive who told her she was “too short, too fat ever to make it in the industry.” The pride in her work is evident on how she relishes just how far she has come and accomplished. The final scene is a sold out concert in her hometown of Augusta, GA, where in front of adoring crowd (including some of the hospital staff that treated her and the doctor that did her surgery) she gives a performance that shows the world she is back with a vengeance. It’s an incredible performance that will make you want to see her perform in person.
You are going to want to go on this journey with this fireplug of a singer who, through her grace and spirit makes you feel better about the world, a world filled with the beautiful music that she creates. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
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“Miss Sharon Jones!” is playing exclusively at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema