7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Rape, murder! It's just a shot away. Theatrical release review.,
This review is from: Twenty Feet From Stardom [Blu-ray]  [US Import] (Blu-ray)
I was totally unaware of this movie until a vocalist friend of mine asked me if I wanted to see it. Some friends in her all female singing group had seen it and raved about it. So, on an impulse I went to see it.
Behind every great star is a great singing talent backing them up. Sting, Rolling Stones, George Harrison, Lynyrd Skynrd, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, Stevie wonder.
Twenty feet tells the story of backup singers who we are impressed by but have not necessarily given much thought to their story. However to see this movie is to become of aware of their story, their talent, and their struggles.
Thematically, it visits the theme explored in Standing in the Shadows of Motown, which explored the musician talent behind all the great Motown hits. Most of the great hits of Motown featured almost the exact same musicians creating the distinctive Motown sound, and that movie explored their story.
Although I loved that movie which I highly recommend I loved this one more, because it explores the more personal dimension of the singer. We get inside the story of these women singers and learn of their trials and tribulations, and as the title suggests the closeness to fame and the elusive quality of fame itself. These ladies are undoubtedly very talented, and I pulled out a pen and started writing down their names as I watched the movie so that I could explore more of their work later.
Most of the great artists do use backup singers, and there is no doubt that the harmonies and counter-melodies they contribute add a huge dimension to the artists performance, and to our experience as a listener.
Major artists such as Sting, Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder contribute their insights, and their stories, and we also get to see some Michael Jackson footage, and the backup singer on the verge of becoming famous until you know what.. happened.
One particular highlight for me was the story of the recording of Gimme Shelter with the Rolling Stones. I will never think of that song the same way again.
Another was the harrowing story of Darlene Love and her experiences with Phil Spector. While his brilliance as a producer is undoubted his treatment of her was horrible.
I was previously unaware that before the era of Milli Vanilli, some well known female singing acts performed in concert lip synching to vocals provided by studio backup singer in concert, although we all know about Audrey Hepburn and My Fair Lady I think.
Similarly a story of a woman backup singer who finally gets her own recording contract, and records a hit song. However the song is put out under the name of a different artist and gets to number one using her vocals.
Most movies when released make the biggest money on the opening weekend, and often trail off spectacularly losing as much as much as 50% the following week, and often fizzle or disappear after a few weeks. Twenty feet made on a budget of approximately $1 million grossed $54,000 on it's opening weekend in June on 3 screens. An impressive number per screen on a limited release. One month later it grosses
$370,000, and $390,000 on back to back weekend, and in August it's still going strong having grossed over $3,000,000. It has also won several awards including the San Francisco International Film Festival audience award.
I think we all love to root for the underdog, if you're like me as you watch this movie, you may wonder why isn't this particular woman a superstar. Some of them very definitely deserve to be.
Some names to remember and explore: Ciandra Lennear, Merry Clayton, Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, and Judith Hill.
We enjoyed it. It got a round of applause at the end. I would not be the least bit surprised if this was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.
I think you will love it, and I hope this was helpful.