'What's Love Got To Do With It?' is one of the best musical biopics I've seen. No other captures the sheer energy that radiates from performance, or unravels such a hauntingly realistic display of a singer's personal life. Every musical number is directed so we feel we are watching it live, and the personal life of Tina Turner is so harrowing it's almost an invasion of privacy to witness such shocking acts occur behind closed doors.
Anna Mae Bullock was a timid but determined girl from Tennessee, abandoned and cared for in the middle of nowhere. After a reunion with her estranged mother and sister in her late teens she met the cool and charismatic Ike Turner; he recognised her talent and took her under his wing as a tutor, and later a lover. But as her fame grew so did his jealousy, and her rise to stardom is paralleled with a spiralling case of domestic abuse. She watches people stand by as she is beaten, and those she love turn against her.
As Turner, Angela Bassett is phenomenal. She may be lip-synching for the majority of the musical numbers, but it never prevents her from being Tina Turner in every possible way; on stage her movements are loud and flamboyant, and watching her transformation from an awkward and shy girl to a confident and strong-willed woman who overcomes major trauma to end up a success is astonishing. I don't knock Holly Hunter's performance in 'The Piano' at all - she was brilliant - but the Oscar should have gone to Bassett. I've never seen Laurence Fishburne act quite like this either; as Ike he never falls into the cliched trap of an 'evil husband', but is a man torn apart by jealousy, hurts those he loves and ends up on a bitter path of self-destruction.
'Whats Love Got To Do With It?' finds the perfect balance between drama and music. The stage sequences are full of kinetic energy and dazzling spectacle, and never feels over-done. It is then perfectly juxtaposed onto a backdrop of violence and hatred that forms the foundations of Ike and Tina's marriage; like many battered wives she initally makes excuses, blames herself and goes back to Ike time and time again. It lasts longer than it should have. In public he embarrasses her, then makes her seem hysterical.
Only through the discovery of Buddhism does Tina begin to find the strength to stand up to him, and fight back. It is both gut-wrenching and inspiring to see her final escape; the scene lasts less than a minute, but makes for one of the film's most powerful and enduring moments.
In the divorce court, Tina gave up rights to all royalties, publishing rights, investements, all in essence hers anyway. All she wanted was her name. And now, everyone knows the name. This film lets you appreciate the name.
'What's Love Got To Do With It?' is a bold, sensitive and compelling film, never doubting it's leading lady, never manipulating audience response. We watch the drama unfurl, and react accordingly. I have never been a fan of Tina Turner's music, although I suppose I have always sub-consciously admired her work. But now I would gladly listen, because I know the pain it cost, and the undeniable effort that was poured into it. For her music, she gave her soul.