Take a Hike Ike and Don't You Come Back No More
Big hair, tight outfit, strutting across a stage whilst belting out one of her famous songs, that is very much one of my earliest memories of seeing Tina Turner perform. It would have been some time in the mid 80s and as a teenager I was unaware of her back story, the Ike and Tina years the various prominent songs which they made together. But when in 1993 the story of Tina's life was made into the biopic "What's Love Got to Do with It" I was keen to watch and what I watched surprised me as I learned so much about the troubled life of Tina Turner. Watching "What's Love Got to Do with It" now, well it still stands up, it's still entertaining, shocking and as impressive as all those years earlier.
As biopics go "What's Love Got to Do with It" starts off as you would expect back to the childhood of Anna Mae Bullock with a humorous church choir scene which sets up the love of music which Anna Mae had a child as well as being abandoned by her mother. But then it jumps to the late 50s with a teenage Anna Mae heading to the city to be reunited with her mother where she not only meets Ike Turner but ends up becoming a singer with his band. What follows takes us through the rise in fame of Ike and Tina, as Anna Mae was to become to be known, and their violent relationship which as is now well known lead to a split and Tina Turner going on to becoming a modern singing icon.
One of the best things about "What's Love Got to Do with It" is that it gives us just enough back story before focussing on the main storyline which is the relationship between Ike and Tina. It doesn't get bogged down by why Anna Mae was abandoned by her mother as a young child, or what happened to her in the years in-between preferring to focus on the rise to fame of Ike and Tina and then the decline of their relationship.
As such there is a brilliant pace to "What's Love Got to Do with It" as it skips along covering the initial meeting between Ike and Anna Mae, their initial tour, the record deals and rise to fame, whilst then taking us down the other side as their relationship was destroyed by Ike's drug taking, violent nature and jealousy over Tina's popularity. Now I've not read Tina Turner's biography which this move is based upon, but whilst I am sure there has been some bending of the truth to make it work on the screen there is no denying that Tina Turner lead a troubled life. Being knocked about by Ike and for want of a better word raped by him, woken up with a gun in her face, collapsing and suffering illness and so much more. It is testament to Tina Turner's bravery that she is still with us.
Because of this, because of all the scenes of violence mixed in with their rise to fame "What's Love Got to Do with It" is surprisingly shocking, more shocking than you would expect from many biopics which tend not to fully acknowledge the harsher side of someone's life. But as you would expect it is also uplifting, as many a good biopic turns out to be, and as we watch Tina finally stand up for herself there is a sense of empowerment, not the cheesy emotional empowerment but more realistic, of a woman who at the time bravely fled her brutal husband.
Of course being a biopic of a singer "What's Love Got to Do with It" is of course filled with famous songs. Now although Angela Bassett didn't sing, Tina Turner covered the various songs herself, you wouldn't have a clue that Bassett wasn't singing and the visual performances are stunning. Bassett really manages to capture the look and style of Tina Turner perfectly so watching Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett as Ike and Tina perform one of their iconic songs feels surprisingly real, as if you are watching authentic archive footage delivering the energy of a performance rather than just acting it.
Whilst Angela Bassett shines as Tina Turner, Laurence Fishburne is equally as good as Ike Turner and unlike Bassett did do all his own singing. What is so good about Fishburne's performance is that he gets across an image of Ike as a sly and ruthless man, someone willing to do absolutely everything to get what he wants and as such had a violent temper when things didn't go his way. As such the scenes between Bassett and Fishburne are full of energy and are also shockingly brutal in the level of violence. It's so shocking that it is eye opening for those unaware of the history to Ike and Tina.
What this all boils down to is that "What's Love Got to Do with It" is a very impressive biopic, which focuses brilliantly on the pivotal years in Tina Turner's life covering her rise to fame with Ike Turner and the destruction of their relationship as his jealousy over her popularity lead to violent beatings. It is brutal and eye opening for those who are unaware of the violence which Tina Turner found herself on the wrong end off but it is also uplifting. Plus with two stunning performances from Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne along with a brilliant soundtrack it is also entertaining.