Tina (2021) ☆☆☆1/2(3.5/4): As she looks back on her life and career

HBO documentary film “Tina” gives us a wide and insightful look on the life and career of Tina Turner via herself and several others willing to talk about her. As many of you already know, Turner had quite a hard time due to her toxic relationship with her ex-husband who was also her main artistic collaborator, but the documentary shows much more than that, and it is often touching to observe how she regained the control on her life and career – and how she eventually walked away with enough success and satisfaction.

The first chapter of the documentary naturally focuses on how Turner came to work with Ike Turner during the 1950s. At that time, he was a pretty popular musician thanks to his hit song “Rocket 88”, and she was just a plain young woman from a small village in Tennessee, but he came to notice her considerable talent thanks to her persistence. Not long after that, she became a crucial part of his band, and that is how she, who was incidentally born as Anna Mae Bullock, became Tina Turner.

That changed name was actually forced upon her by her husband, who was already quite determined to control everything in Turner’s career mainly due to his deep fear and insecurity. Because he had got pushed away from considerable success more than once before he met Turner, he was often afraid of losing that big opportunity via Turner, and he eventually married her as a part of his selfish plan on her.

Anyway, things went fairly well for both of them as they enjoyed lots of success during next several years. As a good songwriter, Turner’s husband steadily provided a series of hit songs to be performed by her, and she still remembers well how she became more experienced and hardened as often facing his strict perfectionism along with other musicians working with them. Besides spending lots of time in recording studios, they also worked a lot in an endless series of concerts every year, and she still feels regrets on how she could not spend much time with her kids at their home.

Meanwhile, her husband came to abuse her more and more as time went by. As a matter of fact, he was quite abusive to her even at the beginning of their married life, but Turner chose to stick to him as she promised to him from the beginning of her career, and she really tried hard to hide her growing marital problem while keeping her face straight and confident whenever she was in front of her audiences.

In the end, there finally came a point where Turner came to decide that enough is enough. On one day of 1976, her husband hit her again just because of a minor complaint of hers, but, this time, she did not just let herself beaten by him again. Although she did not have much money for herself at that time, she soon left him without any hesitation, and that was followed by their divorce in 1978.

At the time of their divorce, Turner chose to give up every right on whatever she made with her husband for avoiding more pain and headache, but she did not step back at all in case of her stage name. She was quite determined to going her way alone as Tina Turner, and she was not afraid of performing at any place for earning enough for herself and her kids.

Turner did struggle a lot during her first few years without her ex-husband, but she endured and then prevailed in the end. Thanks to her new manager who really believed in her, she got an opportunity to make and then release her first solo album “Private Dancer” in 1984, and that album was a phenomenal success with that memorable song “What’s Love Got to Do with It”.

In the meantime, Turner also became quite open about how much she was frequently abused by her ex-husband. Although she was certainly very afraid of revealing her traumatic period to many others out there (After all, it was more than 35 years before the #MeToo movement, you know), she received enormous amount of support and empathy from the public, and that helped a lot her healing process along with her Buddhist belief.

And her solo career rapidly rose during next several years. Besides receiving several Grammys for “Private Dancer”, she also gave a solid supporting performance in George Miller’s “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” (1985), and her real-life story associated with her ex-husband was made into the 1993 film “What’s Love Got to Do with It”, which garnered well-deserved two Oscar nominations for the electrifying lead performances by Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne.

Although her time with her ex-husband still hurt her a lot even during that period (She could not watch that movie at all, for instance), she kept going as usual in addition to finding a new love from her second husband with whom she is currently living in Switzerland, and she could let her old pain and trauma go a bit around the time when her ex-husband died in 2007.

On the whole, “Tina” is an excellent documentary illuminates more on its remarkable human subject, and directors Dan Lindsay and T. J. Martin, who won an Oscar together from the 2011 documentary film “Undefeated” (2011), did a commendable job of presenting Turner’s life and career with enough care and respect. Now she is going through the closing chapter of her life and career, but it is evident from the documentary that she is still in full control over her life and career, and that is really moving to watch, you know.

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