Movie Assessment: ‘Wonderful Grace’ Is A Should-See Music Documentary

The long-awaited Queen biopic is a becoming tribute to Freddie Mercury.

It took 47 years, technological innovation and a few courtroom instances to convey Wonderful Grace to theaters, however these struggles pale compared to the payoff. The fabled footage offers the viewer a front-row seat at one in every of Aretha Franklin’s most iconic performances. The Queen of Soul’s voice remained unsurpassed till the very finish, however the likelihood to witness a younger, transcendent Aretha on the very peak of her powers is a present. Each for long-time followers and youthful audiences, who largely know the celebrity from Twitter memes. For them, that is a necessary 87-minute historical past lesson.

Filmed in 1972 on the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, Wonderful Grace was alleged to be launched together with a two-disc stay album. Issues went in keeping with plan with the Grammy-winning recording (it stays the highest-selling stay gospel album of all time), however the movie by no means noticed the sunshine of day. Maddeningly, director Sydney Pollack and his crew forgot to make use of a clapboard to sync the footage with the audio, which rendered it unimaginable to chop. And by the point know-how had caught up, Aretha fought to have the documentary canned.

The R&B icon by no means defined her dissatisfaction with the completed product, a minimum of publicly. She couldn’t have been displeased together with her vocal efficiency, which is otherworldly, or the best way during which she is portrayed. (The then 29-year-old exudes humility, whether or not she’s placing on her personal make-up in a dingy room or speaking with the band). Maybe, it was simply too painful a visit down reminiscence lane to take. In spite of everything, that is each bit as a lot as a love letter to Aretha’s religion as it’s to her household. Seeing her father’s sheer delight, as he introduces his daughter to the congregation, is without doubt one of the movie’s many highlights.

As private because the movie is, it’s additionally a time capsule of the early ’70s. In some methods, that is extra historic doc than live performance documentary. It captures not solely the wonderful trend and hairstyles of a bygone period, but additionally how far we’ve got come (or regressed relying in your place) musically. Everybody on display, from the church choir to the band members, was on the very prime of their recreation. No notes had been missed, no bells and whistles had been have to maintain everybody (together with Mick Jagger) riveted to their church pew.

After which there’s Aretha. Luminous, composed and pious. When she stands behind the microphone, the God-given present comes pouring out in a manner that’s as touching because it mind-blowing. Whereas her legendary rendition of “Wonderful Grace” is a spotlight, each music stirs the feelings no matter your religion or curiosity in gospel. Initially, I believed that the movie would have benefited from extra context — maybe an interview with Aretha or somebody at her label — however finally, it’s simply you and Aretha. And certainly that’s sufficient for any music lover.

Wonderful Grace is in theaters now. Discover a displaying close to you right here and watch the trailer under.

Score: four.5/5

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