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This film represents one of the most iconic movie biographies ever to be made in Hollywood about an entertainment couple. However, unlike other biographical films that are quick to point towards the fame and success of artists, this film actually traces the journey of the legendary singer Tina Turner and the tribulations she faced under the hands of her husband, Ike Turner, through frequent domestic abuse (Gibson). Although most of the famous people in the popular culture and world of show business undergo through various social, economic, and political barriers before they achieve their fame, very few could compare with the anguish that Tina Turner had to experience. The film portrays her then husband, Ike Turner, as a jealous man who could not stand her rising popularity and immense talent. This jealousy turned Ike into a ruthless wife beater and the movie depicts a scenario where Tina withstood this domestic abuse for quite a long time.
Originally born in Nutbush, Tennessee, as Anna Mae Bullock, the film opens with a prologue scene that traces her childhood in which her vocal superiority was evident in the Nutbush church choir. It is in this same town that she eventually meets up with Ike Turner where she gets blown away by his slickness as he performed in a band. Ike would invite a handful of women from the eccentric audience to sing along with his band after which he would see them off stage. This depicts insecurity such that he did not want anybody else to shine more than him in the band, thus giving them only a few minutes of singing with his band. This changes suddenly when Anna Mae Bullock gets on the podium and sings her heart out, captivating even the narcissistic Ike Turner's heart.
With all her naivety, little Anna is soon caught up in the excitement as she finds herself touring with Ike Turner and his other band-mates (Gibson). The character of Tina is played by Angela Bassett and that of Ike is taken by Laurence Fishburne, both of whom are Hollywood A-listers who gave an award winning performance as the main cast starring in the film. Fishburne excels in showing the charming side of Ike as well as the violent side of his character. Bassett also gives a convincing performance as the fiery Tina Turner who will not let anything derail her journey to musical fame. The fusion of Tina Turner's music as the soundtrack to the movie is unmistakable while Ike has a physically imposing personality on the set that gives the film the believable reality that is akin to watching reality television on the real lives of the two individuals.
The main gist of this films captures the intertwining careers of the two lovers who hit the heights of the music business with their records going platinum. They also enjoy substantive success that can be measured through the financial revenues from their music records and frequent bookings for performances around Ls Vegas and other notable American cities. However, underlying all this financial and music success was their personal lives that were deteriorating at a frantic speed. Ike starts becoming a monster through his love for snorting cocaine that takes a turn for the worse. As if that is not enough, Ike became a womanizer with a string of girls, which was part of the emotional torment that he put Tina Turner. The physical violence and verbal abuse increased too with some of Tina's friends advising her to leave the abusive nightmare that was her marriage.
On the flip-side though, the majority of people surrounding the couple turn out to be facilitators of the tribulations facing them because they were either intimated by the imposing physicality of Ike or they were his cocaine-snorting friends. There is a compelling scene in the film where one night, Ike thoroughly beats the lights out of Tina like he was always used to doing. Profusely bleeding, well battered, and utterly confused, Tina limps out of their hotel room and walks down to an inn where she introduces herself as Tina Turner, honestly confesses to having no money, and pledges to pay every cent if she is accommodated at the inn. Having heard of her husband's mistreatment, the inn manager is kindhearted enough to give her a room for the night.
This inn is prominently conspicuous in the film because Tina categorically states that she will be eternally grateful for the motel for taking her inn on that ill-fated moment of her need. The significance of this motel, the Ramada Inn, is depicted by a large roadside neon sign (Gibson). Despite this scene being moving, it does not mark the end of the marital relationship between the show business power couple. The film is also accurate in showing that Tina Turner kept going back to her abusive husband, like many domestically abused women, while making excuses for his violence and believing his apologies that made her to keep giving him another chance in their marriage. This defies logic because the sensible thing would have been for her to walk away from the mistreatment.
At the very end of the film, Tina seeks solace in the religious practice of Buddhism. It is through Buddhism that Tina turner gathers her inner strength to say no to her husbands brutal violence by embracing meditation techniques which help her to clear her thoughts. One memorable scene shows Tina Turner just about to perform on an event where her husband bypasses the security and traces her to the dressing room. Armed with a gun, the sight of him fuming with rage should have been enough to make Tina cower. This does not happen though, thanks to her renewed courage that emboldens her to face him head on and not cave in to his demands. As if that is not enough, she leaves him all alone in the room on her way to the stage where she gives a completely professional performance (Gibson); which is clearly a departure from the past Tina Turner who always succumbed to the whims and wishes of her husband.
This biographical film has all the components that demystify the superstar status of most talented people in the show business. The talented duo who become a darling of the American public ate soon shredded apart by domestic abuse, drugs, adultery, suppression, and the continuous forgiving of one strong woman. The film is not the archetypal musical film like others done in Hollywood as it tells the ups and downs that both parties have had to endure in their relationship, with the oppressor eventually becoming defeated through a simple act that the oppressed should have done a long time ago. The biography captures the courage and pain of Tina Turner, thus giving her fans and the public at large the inner workings of showbiz couples in the music industry.
What's Love Got To Do Wioth It. Dir. Brian Gibson. Perf. Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne. 1993. Film.
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