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RELEASED: 1993, Cert.18
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 117 mins
DIRECTOR: Brian Gibson
PRODUCERS: Doug Chapin & Barry Krost
SCREENPLAY: Kate Lanier
MUSIC: Incidental music by Stanley Clark. The film also includes music from various people such as Ike & Tina Turner, Paul Jones, Big Joe Turner and others.
Angela Bassett as Anna Mae Bullock (Tina Turner)
Laurence Fishburne as Ike Turner
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Based on Tina Turner's autobiography, "I, Tina" which she co-wrote with Kurt Loder, What's Love Got To Do With It begins with Tina (Anna Mae Bullock being her real name) as a little girl living in Tennessee where she didn't have a too happy childhood, eventually being bundled off to live with her grandmother. After her grandmother dies, Tina returns to live with her mother and sister....receiving mixed blessings from her mother.
At a local soul club, Tina becomes very drawn to Ike, a young singer and musician fronting the resident band. Ike encourages Tina to sing, and invites her to join forces with him immediately. Before long, they marry.
Initially, Tina is besotted with Ike, following his every word and command, going out of her way to keep him happy. Ike is a very talented, but volatile, demanding, controlling and manipulative man, whose chief goal in life is fame and the money that goes with it.
After he and Tina follow a successful musical career together, Ike's behaviour deteriorates when he begins using drugs. Things get worse when Phil Spector wants Tina to make a record with him and after Ike throws a tantrum, the song is released as being credited to both Tina and Ike together.
Life doesn't get any easier. Ike is a seasoned coke-snorter, self-admiring, violent, abusive, regularly beating Tina up when she won't do exactly as he wishes. Tina occasionally tries to stand her ground, but Ike's anger always gets the better of her - plus, she often pours oil on troubled waters as Ike's violent outbursts are affecting their children very badly.
To find out how Tina manages to eventually take control of her own life and follow a successful solo career, you must see the film for yourself.
I first watched What's Love Got To Do With It when it was newly released, and although I thought it was good, there was something missing from it. However, I liked it much more when I saw it again recently, yet I can't quite put my finger on why it was better for me second time around.
Right from when Tina first met Ike, and looking at what happened from the eyes of a fly on the wall, the signs are there at the outset. Ike can be very charming and come across as a caring individual, but the gradually worsening quirks in his personality are immediately apparent. However, the young Tina was a girl in love, and love is usually blind. By the time Tina was entrenched in both a personal and a professional relationship with Ike, his vice-like grip on her was almost impossible to break free from.
The film for me raises a few little questions. Would Ike have treated Tina more kindly if the adoration from fans hadn't put her in a stronger limelight than himself? Would Ike have been less volatile if he'd have stayed off the drugs? Would Tina have found fame at all without Ike's influence? I honestly don't think the answer to any of those questions would be "yes". Perhaps the situation and the drug use served to fuel Ike's intolerable behaviour, but I am a great believer in that nothing can be stimulated out of us that isn't already there....even if it does lie dormant until triggered. I feel that Tina's life with Ike, no matter whether they had been famous or not, would have been a difficult one as he was basically an out of control man. As for the question about whether Tina would have found fame without Ike, who knows? I'd guess that nobody, even Tina herself, could speculate on that one and give an accurate answer.
The acting from both main characters is superb, although it was obvious that Angela Bassett was miming - that's to be expected though, because the real Tina Turner was too old to play her younger self at the time the film was made and released. However, Bassett delivered a good, powerful and convincing performance. My favourite though is Laurence Fishburne's outstanding portrayal of the occasionally charming, but mostly loathsome, bullying Ike Turner. Fishburne was 100% convincing in the role, to the point where I feel he deserved some kind of shiny acting award - yes, even an Oscar.
The score to the film and incidental music is very good, particularly during the first half or so. The later part of the What's Love Got To Do With It is more orientated towards Tina Turner's solo career, and such music from then doesn't quite hit my spot, but I love all the traditional R&B which is the backdrop to the part of the film set in the very late 1950s and throughout the 1960s. There is a huge nostalgic value, but it may not appeal to people who aren't fans of middle period R&B.
I guess it's possible that some people who have been or who are in a violent relationship could find What's Love Got To Do With It extremely difficult to watch, as the wife-beating (and at one point rape) scenes are very credible, well put together and well-acted. Another thing which hammers home pretty hard is how the injured party's spirits can be almost totally defeated by a brutal spouse/partner. One part of me wants to yell at the screen "For God's sake woman...get OUT and STAY OUT...." yet the other part of me realises that men of Ike Turner's type have a talent for making their women feel as if all the abuse and violence is their fault, turning on the charm and persuading her back with empty promises and declarations of intending to change. In Tina's case, the 'worm' eventually turned, which may serve to offer a ray of hope to other women going through the same thing....and men too, as it shouldn't be assumed that men alone are the sole perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse.
It is said in Wikipedia's article on What's Love Got To Do With It, that it is only very loosely based on Tina Turner's actual autobiography, and that certain scenes were altered in order to create more of a watchable storyline. I am not doubting the author of the Wikipedia article, but because I've not read Tina's autobiography, I'm unable to comment on any discrepancies or otherwise within the film as far as sticking to the facts is concerned.
In summary, What's Love Got To Do With It is a pretty powerful and emotive film, which some viewers may find upsetting. It's very well-acted, well-presented and contains surprisingly little slush-bucket sentimentality...which in my eyes, can only be a good thing. The music is great too!
At the time of writing, What's Love Got To Do With It can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £3.25 to £39.99
Used: from £2.99 to £19.99
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Tina Turner may be best known for such classic hits as Private Dancer and The Best, as well as those never ending legs that she is still able to strutt, despite being approximately 96 years old. Prior to becoming one of pop's leading ladies though, she was notoriously married to soul rocker Ike Turner, hence the surname. This film charts her meteoric rise as the voice of his songs, and the abusive marriage that would eventually lead to her departure, and subsequent success as the Tina Turner we know and love today.
What's Love Got To Do With It, named after her 1984 classic hit of the same name, begins with a young Anna Mae Bullock shyly singing on stage with the powerful Ike Turner. As he leads her to success, she falls in love and marries him. Before long though, he begins to beat her, and makes no bones about the fact that he is seeing other women. To the world they are the King and Queen of soul, rocking out such classics as Proud Mary and River Deep Mountain High. Behind closed doors, he was violently beating her and, according to this film, raping her. This film charts the story from their meeting to her departure from him and subsequent journey to the stage as a solo artist. It also shows that Tina had to find buddhism in order to psychologically escape Ike's brutality.
What's Love Got To With It, factually accurate or otherwise, is powerful stuff. It's very easy to believe, from Laurence Fishburne's head turning performance as Ike Turner, that the man was a brute. It's also easy to believe that Tina Turner was a sassy, but fragile woman who was too physically and emotionally weak to fight back. Most people will know that very few factual movies make it through the Hollywood mincer untarnished, and this is, by her own admission, only Tina Turner's version of events. I dont know that I fully believe the version of events on display. That aside, the performances and the songs are utterly top notch.
Angela Basset turns in one of the best performances committed to screen as a younger Tina Turner. Turner herself is so individual and famous for her look that it was a difficult feat to get somebody to potray her convincingly. Aside from the odd grievance, Basset captures Tina Turner's tics and movements almost to perfection. Easier to cast would have been Fishburne as Ike. Fewer of us will know that much about the man as he has been out of the limelight for years, and Fishburne is quite a remarkable actor, that his performance is completely gut wrenching and believable.
Some of the scene's on display are quite uncomfortable. I cringed as Ike grabbed Tina in their recording booth and committed an appalling act of sexual violence towards her. I also cringed as he beat her until her face bled. Just because these things are uncomfortable to watch, doesn't mean they dont happen. Director Brian Gibson, Fishburne and Basset never glamourise the violence, instead making it uncomfortably real to watch.
Tina Turner has gone on to become a global superstar, releasing hit albums, and starring in hit films. It's sometimes hard to believe, watching the modern day Tina strutt her stuff across a multi-million pound stage, that she once endured this brutality. Whilst the film never makes the violence glamorous, it makes it entertaining, which makes this film a gripping watch. Backed by a super soundtrack that covers the Ike & Tina material as well as a couple of Tina's own songs, it's brilliant to watch and to listen to.
I've actually seen this film now three times, and it still manages to move me. The first time was when I was at Uni and it just happened to be on, on one of those horrible sleepless nights. The film had just started when I put it on, so I had no idea who it was about, but I soon learned that this was the life story of the woman we now tend to recognise as Tina Turner.
Growing up, Anna Mae, as "Tina Turner" was then known, already saw domestic violence, and her mother left her behind after fleeing with her sister from their troubles. Anna Mae was much older when she went to live with her mother again, and was aiming to become a nurse. Then life took a surprising change when she managed to take the microphone for a fans' karaoke bit at a concert. This is where Ike Turner first noticed her, and in the film he was taken by her voice and quickly took her up, soon to be a member of his band. Working together, a little bit of flirting led to more, and before she knew it Anna Mae was getting married. But sinister incidents along the way start to add up, and then the dream of a happy marriage becomes a nightmare from hell.
I haven't read Tina Turner's autobiography, but since watching this film the first time I did find myself browsing the net to learn more about her. It appears there are a small handful of factual inaccuracies in the film. Also, there are scenes that Ike himself disputes ever happening, although personally I'm not sure I'd believe him. Of course, I cannot be the judge of that so felt the best thing was to try and keep an open mind. Even Tina Turner was not 100% pleased with the film, where characters were invented and things happened that she had never claimed to have happened. I don't blame her for this, but I would say that as a film, it is hard to reflect long term sustained abuse, and to go into full details who was there and what others did. For this reason it might make a bit more sense to mix fact and fiction.
I have had plenty of experience of bullies, and I am having plenty now, but at least I have a safe place I can go home to, and I do not live in fear. That probably would have been the one thing to topple me over the edge. There are actually only a small handful of violent scenes in the film, a lot more is the behaviour that builds up to them and the effect it has on other relationships. But just those few scenes were enough to get me on the edge of my seat thinking how horrible it must be to be trapped in that hell. Aside from being an eye-opener about how awful things really were and the fact that being rich and famous really does not guarantee you a peaceful, free and happy life, this is a hard-hitting story of how a person, however strong or confident, can almost be completely brought down and destroyed by a violent relationship. It's not much of a spoiler to point out that Tina Turner survived, and recently I saw that she was doing concerts just one last time. But even though it is common knowledge how the film might end, there was still ample suspense around how each event would change things for her.
One of the things that was criticised was the casting of Lawrence Fishburne as Ike Turner, because with his figure, appearance and acting with an emphasis on power, this was apparently a contradiction to "the real Ike". I neither agree nor disagree with this, because I really don't know, but I would say if intended to be from the viewpoint of a victim of domestic violence, I'd imagine this was close enough to what she would have seen, even if it isn't the full picture. Of course other people's views are bound to be different, and you could argue this was all for emotive effect, so it is worth staying open-minded about the truth. Fishburne created some very distinctive mannerisms and this made his character more familiar and perhaps daunting. I did read somewhere that he wanted to humanise Ike, and although I'd still regard Ike's behaviour as unforgiveable, I would agree that in this film he wasn't just a monster - just there was little or no good in him.
Angela Bassett takes her role very seriously as Anna Mae/Tina Turner, and there is more to her acting than just trying to imitate the singer as closely as possible. Her character was raw and real, not just a damsel in distress, yet not lacking the emotional fragility that you could expect her to have. Bassett doesn't try to dress everything up, and this is not a pretty film, definitely. There are so many different aspects to her personality, I'd struggle to explain them, but anyway it is better you see them from her yourself!
The film's key focus is on Ike and Anna Mae/Tina Turner, and although there are numerous other characters, they generally fall into the background. For instance Anna Mae's mother, the man who wanted to sign her up as a singer in her own right, the backing singers, Ike's band and other friends. There is also Jackie, a friend and former backing singer, played by Vanessa Bell Calloway who, may be fictitious, but plays a good role in giving the film an outside perspective and saying what a lot of us might want to, seeing a friend in this situation.
The soundtrack is generally emotive with the added benefit of featuring many of the Turners' famous songs, but as part of the plot and for the theme music. Really, little else would be required, or even fit in with this film.
The development of fashions and hairstyles is notable throughout the film, but for Ike and Tina. You start to see some familiar features shine through as the film progresses, and apparantly the real Tina Turner helped Bassett a bit in achieving that image. Ike's appearance changes throughout the film based on the looks he adopted at different stages, some more obvious, e.g. Afro hairstyle, than others. The clothes also start to get more dramatic and vibrant towards the centre of the film. You barely see much age change in their looks, but I think it is made obvious by the acting in the way their personalities develop anyway.
The stage scenes seem all fairly realistic, albeit mostly small-scale. The glam-factor was actually quite minimal considering how famous we know Tina Turner became, but this allows us to focus more on what life was like behind the scenes.
I'm not really sure about this one. The film has been classified as an 18, and part of me thinks that people over 15 should really be allowed to see it. It would seem obvious, when I say there is a rape scene, that the rating must be an 18. It really is horrible to watch that scene and in fact the second time I saw it, I left the room (can't rewind/fast-forward at the moment) and when it came on telly I changed the channel so my sister didn't have to see it although I'm sure she'd be okay. I don't think you see much sexually, but it is more the horror of what is happening that really hits you. This, however, is something that a sensible audience would easily understand from this film. This is the only scene that I think could possibly prevent people aged between 15 and 18 seeing the film, although I suppose that perhaps most people that age would not want to see the film due to its nature - but that's really their decision. I think the film provides some valuable lessons that, given how common domestic violence really is, could help others to see the signs and see ways to help and support people who might be going through it. Some scenes could even make people recognise bullying behaviour that goes on in their own relationships and get out before it gets worse.
It is certainly worth watching at least once and you may well find that you want to see it again. This film is not about entertainment and must be taken seriously, but if you care to do that, I strongly recommend it. Rather than just saying this is a very inaccurate portrayal of what really happened to the star, I'd say this is a picture of what someone imagined it would be like to be a star living under the shadow of domestic abuse, based on the story of Ike and Tina Turner. By this definition, the film really is unmissable, but perhaps I just like it too much to stick to the other definition!
If you are or have been in a violent relationship, or suffered bullying of some other kind, it is likely you'll find this more upsetting, but nevertheless I think there is a lot to benefit from this film and I therefore recommend it even more. When you see things from an outside point of view, you might even find yourself re-evaluating the way you deal with things yourself. The only thing I am unsure of is where a person actually is a bully (and most people would not identify themselves as one even if they were, which makes this harder) - would this film help? I think it might only make bullies feel ashamed for a while, but it would be nice if it encouraged them to change their ways and deal with problems in a different way. I can't judge on this, but it is probably worth a watch.
For me, as a kid I had always imagined that if I could break into stardom then everyone would respect me and no one would ever have reason to bully me again, because I'm not a loser, not ugly (they plaster people in make-up!), not poor etc. etc, but after seeing this film I genuinely realised, no one is immune. What you really need to work on is how you cope with it, rather than how to get away from it. I'd watch this film again, probably several times, and for me personally, this really is a top film.
If you have ever enjoyed Tina's music I would suggest this as a great evening's entertainment.
This is the story of Tina's transformation from Anna May Bullock to the Tina Turner we all know. Tina is played superbly by Angela Bassett who manages to capture those classic Tina dance steps with incredible accuracy. The film was made in 1993 and takes Tina's life story from childhood up until that time.
As usual with a biopic the story is intertwinned with Tina's hits, and this makes a great blast from the past - who can forget classics like Proud Mary, River Deep Mountain High.
The majority of the film concentrates on Tina and Ike's relationship, which at times was very abusive, Laurence Fishburne gives an excellent performance as Ike, and we see how timid Anna Mae becomes the woman we know as Tina, whom I have always thought of as a strong woman and this is interesting to see how she has transformed in to this persona. We also see how she has found great comfort from her Buddhist faith.
This film has been endorsed by Tina, and indeed for those who have seen her recent tour, they may have noticed a clip of it in the video montage shown during the concert.
Tina Turner, that dynamic diva of pop/soul/R&B from the 1960s to the 90s, sings like a woman whose life story is every bit as rough and tough as her voice. And What's Love Got to Do With It, based on her autobiographical account (in I, Tina, written with Kurt Loder) of her years under the iron fist of her abusive husband and musical partner/Svengali Ike, is further proof of what we've always known about Tina: She's what you call a survivor. The movie is sort of the Disney version of Tina Turner's story--a glossy but thoroughly enjoyable, old-fashioned showbiz biopic with laughs, tears, great music, and outrageous (but faithful) period decor, costumes, makeup, and hairstyles. Our Heroine triumphs not only over the rigorous demands of her career in the music business, but finally manages to bust out of her troubled, violent marriage as well and become her own person. This is a movie that'll have you shouting at the top of your lungs: "You go, girl!" --Jim Emerson