The documentary doesn’t lean on the talking heads of social workers as to why women stay in abusive situations (just an example of how the doctor could have been wrong). Instead, it stays true to Turner’s experiences, through home movie footage, archival interviews with one of his sons as well as Ike himself. Mainly, there are clips of Ike and Tina (and the Ikettes) performing, on TV, in clubs, and Lindsay and Martin have made the choice to let these performances unfold almost entirely. (This is true throughout the documentary.) You can’t fully understand Tina Turner if you haven’t seen her in her “act” with Ike, and the way she attacked those stages in a primitive way. powerful really exciting, swirling with Ikettes in bright yellow and pink dresses, whipping the audience into a frenzy. Tina’s voice came from her guts.
The subsequent performances also take place in their entirety. She does an overwhelming rendition of “Help!” In front of a crowded stadium, but it has the intimacy of one-on-one interaction, as Tina screams her confession in pain, her literal cry for help. So many documentaries cut off from performance, thinking we just want a glimpse of this one to get the gist of it before we move on to the next thing. What a joy to have the space to settle in and let Tina take you where she wants you to go.
The issue of the abuse she suffered at the hands of Ike was not really known to the public until she decided to tell the story to People magazine in 1981. Since then, she has wondered about it, even as her reputation as a solo has reached multi-platinum status. This not only frustrated her, it traumatized her again. She talks about it in a very moving way. Her book was written, in part, to tell the story itself in the hope that this would wrap up the topic. Of course, people were even more sassy and curious. The 1993 film “What’s Love Got To Do With This?”, Starring Angela Bassett (who was interviewed for the documentary) and Laurence Fishburne as Ike, handed the toxic relationship over to foreground, leading to another press tour where she had to answer disgusting questions like, “What was the worst part of the abuse?”
In 2019, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical opened on Broadway and Tina, on the arm of Oprah Winfrey, attended. Crowds of people shouted around her limo when she arrived, and the standing ovation she received as she entered the theater could have been heard in Albany. Tina Turner is now 80 years old. She is retired. She says her presence that night was “a goodbye to her American fans”. There is sadness there, which the documentary allows, even encourages. As Bassett says in his touching interview, “This is what happens to icons. Tina Turner belongs to the world.”