“Miss Sharon Jones!” – Review By Zachary Marsh

Miss Sharon Jones!

The magic of music can affect us in more ways than one. For singer Sharon Jones, music doesn’t just affect her: music is a part of her. Even if you don’t necessarily like her music, it’s hard to deny how gifted she is and how powerful and stunning the voice she possesses is. The documentary “Miss Sharon Jones!,” from award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple, showcases both the power of Jones’ voice and how it helps her get through the tougher times of life. Like many before her, Jones was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and thus had to undergo many severe changes in order to battle the terminal disease she carries. The movie chronicles Jones’ courageous battle to fight cancer and get back onto the stage with her band “The Dap Kings” to bring new music to the stage once again. I will admit that I wasn’t familiar with Jones’ work before seeing the film, though liking the music or not shouldn’t overall affect your views on the movie as a whole. That is unless you’re the type of person who does have a recording artist’s discography influence your thoughts on a documentary about them, in which case you may not like spending an hour and a half with Jones.

The thing to admire the most about this movie, or its subject, for the matter, is how much positivity gives off to those around her. Since this is a story about a woman’s battle with cancer, the movie’s bound to have moments of crying and sadness appear at some point. Those moments do happen here, but unlike other films with similar storylines, the drama in “Miss Sharon Jones!” earns its tears and uses them as a means of both moving the story along and further humanizing this larger-than-life performer. There are also scenes of Miss Jones reflecting on the discrimination she faced in the past, being proud of her skin color, praising God, etc. that in any other film could feel forced. That is not the case here, thankfully.

Miss Sharon Jones!

Jones doesn’t go up to sing in front of her church merely for sentimental and artificial purposes, but rather as a means of showing how some people use religion as a means of getting through the bad times. Even though I wouldn’t say I’m the most religious Jewish individual out there, I can still admire and be happy for people who don’t shove their beliefs down their throats and use it in a positive manner. The documentary could have easily been a story of Jones reflecting on her past while getting through her cancer treatment, and it may very well have been fascinating to watch. Director Barbara Kopple instead wanted to keep things simple, genuine, and to the point, all of which I commend highly. That’s not to say, though, that this isn’t without its fair share of flaws.

As entertaining a person Sharon Jones is, I will admit that I did find myself wandering off during the movie. There are moments where I feel things were less engrossing than others, causing me to lose interest in what I was watching. Luckily things picked back up soon after, but there were points where it felt a little hard to keep going. Everything is well-paced for the most part, but then things start feeling somewhat rushed in the movie’s third act, to the point where moments that were meant to feel satisfying for both Miss Jones and the audience didn’t. It didn’t help that there were a lot of moments that didn’t grab me as much as I had hoped, and it’s because of this that the amount of attention I had given a solid amount of the movie had worn off. These points might have just been problems I had, but they did take away from my overall enjoyment of the story.

Despite moments being less gripping than others and the third act feeling rushed, it’s hard not to recommend checking out “Miss Sharon Jones!” at least once this year. She might not be the most well-known recording artist out there, but Barbara Kopple makes you want to learn more about her and listen to what she’s done throughout her career. The flaws I had with the movie might sound more subjective than anything, so I will easily say that not everything in the documentary clicked with me and, overall, the movie wasn’t as great as I thought it could have been. Problems aside, Sharon Jones’s talent and charisma are too irresistible to ignore, and for that, I happily recommend checking this flick out if it’s either playing near you soon or pops up On-Demand sometime later in the year. “Miss Sharon Jones!” is made to make you feel good and get to know a courageous and resilient woman, and it succeeds at doing just that in my book.

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