What Happened, Miss Simone?

Critics Consensus

What Happened, Miss Simone? is a compelling -- albeit necessarily incomplete -- overview of its complex subject's singular artistic legacy and fascinating life.



Total Count: 45


Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,736
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Movie Info

Using never-before-heard recordings, rare archival footage and her best-known songs, this is the story of legendary singer and activist Nina Simone.

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Critic Reviews for What Happened, Miss Simone?

All Critics (45) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (40) | Rotten (5)

  • What Miss Simone does have going for it is its unique access to extremely rare material, some of it never seen publicly before.

    Jul 24, 2018 | Full Review…
  • We may now have jarring insights into the mother, the activist and the tortured soul at the root of Simone's career, but it's the legendary songstress who ultimately shines through.

    Oct 27, 2017 | Rating: B | Full Review…
  • More omissive than impressionistic.

    Jul 17, 2015 | Full Review…
  • I think the film overreaches in casting Simone as a standard-bearer against racism and sexism, but it's filled with mesmerizing clips from throughout her performing career as well as numerous interviews with Simone, both audio and on film.

    Jun 26, 2015 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
  • As music and cultural critic Stanley Crouch says, "You only have to hear her once. No one sounds like her except her."

    Jun 25, 2015 | Full Review…
  • It may not answer What Happened, Miss Simone?, but it does tell us why the question must be asked and will be asked, for a very long time.

    Jun 24, 2015 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for What Happened, Miss Simone?

  • Mar 30, 2016
    An excellent introduction to one particular soul on planet Earth, perhaps serving as an introduction to the planet as a whole. In a world populated with beings who need interaction to survive, she was isolated, hated for her color, hated for her sex. And when a doctor declares her as unstable in the face of all this, even her own daughter breathes a sigh of relief: "so THAT'S what was wrong with her." How anything positive can arise in the face of the tsunami of hatred and stupidity that is life on this planet is only miraculous, wonderful ... and so this songbird opens her mouth to sing. Must see.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Feb 19, 2016
    Documentaries are only as good as their filmmakers, because if you are not emotionally invested in the happenings of said story, they have not done enough research on the film's subject. "What Happened, Miss Simone" is perfectly executed for what it sets out to accomplish, which is to show the ups and downs of Nina Simone's career. From her happiness, whether it be through family or performing on stage, to her downfalls of being discriminated or dealing with the tragedy of Martin Luther King, this woman was powerful toward her people, and her voice had more of a purpose than to just sing for crowds. Told through a series of interviews, archival footage, and narrations by her daughter, the emotional conclusion is very effective for any viewer, even if they are not a fan of possibly what she stood for or her music. In the end, I truly believe this is a terrific documentary that showcases her life for better or worse, and even though the audience will dislike a lot of her actions, she was very introverted after a few certain life events occurred. "What Happened, Miss Simone" is a very raw and true documentary. If I had one complaint, I do feel like the extended periods of her songs felt like the film was being padded out to not feel too short, and do justice to her history. Overall, this is a very well made film that I can surely recommend to music fans or anyone who is a sucker for a good true story.
    KJ P Super Reviewer
  • Jul 24, 2015
    Through the use of archival footage, concert footage, interviews with those who knew her, especially Nina Simone's daughter, Lisa, and Nina Simone herself in interviews conducted before her death, the documentary "What Happened, Miss Simone?" not only answers that very question but also constructs a complex portrait of a very complicated person who was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. While she sought personal and political liberation, she was also married to an abusive husband. As a child in North Carolina, Nina Simone(nee Eunice Waymon) trained to be a classical pianist but was blocked from attending a prestigious academy by the racism of the time. So, she played nightclubs in order to support herself and her family. That brought her to the attention of record companies, followed by fame and hit records. In return, she leveraged that in support of the civil rights movement, even though she did not agree with the pacifism of Dr. King. Her activism was reflected in her music, especially in the song "Mississippi Goddam."
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 20, 2015
    A sad and memorable film that draws a remarkably wide picture of an ideologically admirable (yet psychologically unstable) woman who would use her sublime voice to sing her demons and not go crazy in an ugly time and world that could not accept her and her freedom.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer

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