Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids (2016) ☆☆☆(3/4): The final tour evening

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Let me get this straight to you first. While I have heard about Justin Timberlake or NSYNC a few times since his first solo album “Justified” was released in 2002, I have been rather more familiar with his acting career due to my serious lack of interest in pop music. Not long after I noticed him in “Alpha Dog” (2006), he surprised me with his breakthrough supporting turn in “The Social Network” (2010), and he was also entertaining in his small but crucial role in the Coen Brothers’ dry music comedy drama “Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013), in which he contributed to its funniest song.

As an actor, Timberlake has a charismatic screen presence to engage the audiences, and his concert film “Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids” confirms that again to me while also showing other interesting things to notice from this renowned international pop star. As far as I can observe from him performing on the stage, he is a talented and electrifying entertainer who will probably keep going further after what will be remembered as another major highlight in his remarkable music career, and the movie did a good job of entertaining us with his undeniable star quality as well as numerous fabulous moments shown from his first-class concert.

The main title sequence of the movie shows us the final preparation stage during the last day of “20/20 Experience World Tour”. Initiated in 2013 November for the promotion of Timberlake’s third and fourth solo albums “20/20 Experience” and “20/20 Experience – 2 of 2”, this tour took more than one year as he and his tour members went around many different cities around US and the rest of the world, and it was concluded with two consecutive evening concerts at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada during the first two days of 2015.

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As the camera goes around inside the arena along with Timberlake, we come across management crew members, technical crew members, and, above all, various backup singers, dancers, and band players who are briefly introduced one by one. It goes without saying that those musicians and dancers have been doing the same concert performance over and over under their demanding tour schedule for a long time, but their morale are kept high despite that, and we get a little glimpse on how Timberlake and others ready and fortify themselves for their final concert.

We soon see Timberlake in backstage position during a few minutes before showing himself up on the stage, and he looks cool and dashing in his neat, impeccable suit designed by Tom Ford. Right from the first song performed on the stage, he grabs the attention of the audiences, and it is then followed by a series of dizzy, dazzling moments pulsating with spirited instrument performances, dexterous dance movements, and busy light beams. Confidently holding everything as the center of the concert, Timberlake also lets others on the stage have their own moments, and they all look effortless as deftly balancing themselves between control and spontaneity.

Appreciating their enormous efforts put into the concert, I admired several big moments to remember. There is a wonderful moment when the arena is lighted by thousands of smartphones from the audiences, and then there is an awesome scene showing Timberlake and his backup singers performing right on a panel which can be moved back and forth between the stage and the audience area. To be frank with you, this moment is so naturally presented that it took some time for me to notice the panel slowly being moved across the arena, and the end credits gives us a detailed look on how the technical crew prepared this before the concert.

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The director Jonathan Demme is no stranger to concert films. While making acclaimed films including “Melvin and Howard” (1980), “The Silence of the Lambs”, “Philadelphia” (1993), and “Rachel Getting Married” (2008), he also made a number of notable documentary films, and he recently directed three Neil Young concert films “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” (2006), “Neil Young Trunk Show” (2009), and “Neil Young Journey” (2012).

With his cinematographer Declan Quinn, Demme did a lot more than merely presenting a concert performance on the screen. With 14 cameras operated around the stage, Quinn and Demme vividly captured many exciting moments during the concert, and these terrific moments come and go smoothly thanks to the precise, efficient editing by Paul Snyder. While we get the clear whole picture of the concert through frequent wide shots showing the entire stage, we also get a fair number of closer glimpses of Timberlake and others on the stage via different camera positions and angles, and the dynamic and intimate sense of joy and excitement feels quite palpable to us as a result.

Regardless of whether Justin Timberlake’s music career will eventually be as enduring as, say, Frank Sinatra, “Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids” showed me that he has all the right stuffs for his advancing stardom, and I came to have more admiration toward his considerable talent as charmed by his likable personality. This enjoyable concert film does not make me want to buy his albums at this point, but I think I will probably attend his concert someday for getting more direct fun.

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