Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Movie Review: Quincy

Quincy *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Alan Hicks and Rashida Jones.
Written by: Alan Hicks and Rashida Jones.
It’s usually a red flag when a family member decides to make a documentary about their famous relative. What happens in those cases is usually a sanitized documentary, in which their beloved family member is pretty much painted as a saint, that ignores any sort of darkness or complicating factors in that person’s life. That is not the case with Quincy – the new documentary about the life and work of Quincy Jones, co-directed by his daughter, Rashida Jones. The movie is, admittedly, largely a glowing portrait of Quincy Jones – but then again, he is a figure who has earned a largely glowing portrait to be made about him. But the film doesn’t shy away from Jones’ imperfections – his multiple marriages, which usually ended because of either his womanizing or his work-alcoholic tendencies. The film flashes back and forth in time – from him as he is now, an 80-something year old man, who still works too hard, and only gave up drinking a little while ago because of a health scare, and a quick look back at his extraordinary life and career. The result is a good documentary – one whose biggest sin is that it tries to cover too much ground in just over two hours.
Quincy largely lets the man himself tell his own story – he narrates the documentary about his life. The film starts with a rough childhood on the streets of Chicago, where violence was always a threat, and in the 1930s, was still segregated (Jones says he didn’t see a white person until he was 11). His mother suffered from mental illness, and came and went from his life – it was painful when she wasn’t there, scary when she was. He discovered music at a young age, and during his teenage years, he was already performing in clubs.
From there, the movie skims through Jones’ time as a hit making producer in the 1960s, working with artists like Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra, to becoming one of the first African Americans to do music scores for films, through his own albums, and on and on – everything from working closely with Michael Jackson on thriller, to being a driving force in trying to stop the violence between rappers in the 1990s. The amount of work that Jones has done is astonishing.
It also details his various marriages and children – three marriages, seven children (not all from those marriages) – and how everything always started so well in those marriages, before they eventually come apart – mainly because he just wasn’t there enough. Still, what the movie makes clear is that Jones always loved his kids, always had a good relationship with them – and still does to this day. We, of course, see him with Rashida more than his other children – she is, after all, filming much of this for the documentary – and their relationship is sweet.
I do think the movie falls into the trap that many documentaries about people like Jones falls into – and that is, it wants to cover so much ground, it ends up skimming the surface more than it should. If you’re a Jones’ diehard, I wonder how much of what you’ll see in this documentary would actually count as new information to you. If you’re not, are you going to watch at all?
I hope the answer to that question is yes. The movie is largely devoid of talking heads, but there are numerous conversations between Jones and current musicians like Dr. Dre and Kendrick Lamar, where the younger artists make it clear just what a giant and influence they see Jones as. Quincy Jones’ story – one where he overcame so much, from racism to health scares and everything in between – in inspiring, as is the documentary. I’d like a deeper dive than we get here – but at least this is a good primer as to why his life and career are as remarkable as they are. e dHe de

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