June 25th, 2021
MOVIE: MARY J BLIGE’S MY LIFE
STARRING: MARY J BLIGE, SEAN COMBS, TARAJI P. HENSON
DIRECTED BY: VANESSA ROTH
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 1 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
It’s hard to get me to dislike a music bio-documentary. Typically, I see the positive side and become enthralled by the amazing talents of musicians. Lord knows I couldn’t do what they do. So I was incredibly excited for Mary J Blige’s My Life, a documentary chronicling the career of the legendary R&B and hip-hop artist. Blige has a gorgeous voice, a unique mix of grace and power, which allows her to be melodic and emphatic in her music. I would call Blige as incredibly worthy of her own documentary, an artist with just as much a complicated past as anyone, but My Life fails to capture much outside of praising the artist for her second album that went triple platinum. It’s a missed opportunity because Blige is a major talent and although My Life may be for the more hardcore fan that loves that album from beginning to end, this documentary turns into a rambling session of celebration.
It’s not that all documentaries need to have a three act structure or even a goal in mind, but when music documentaries work, it’s because they have an arc to them. Last week, Edgar Wright’s in-depth coverage on the band Sparks was straight forward, a telling on the career of a band, their albums, and talking heads to reminisce about their work. It was eye-opening and full throated. The J Balvin doc The Boy from Medellin was a build up to his big homecoming concert in Columbia. For My Life it feels unfocused and self congratulatory. Director Vanessa Roth does an admirable job of flushing out the details behind Blige, her upbringing, and struggles with alcohol, drugs, depression, and an abusive relationship. What’s left after these brief moments is filler, often in the form of others expressing their appreciation for Blige. Not a bad thing, just not fulfilling the viewer.
The brief positives on My Life is the old footage of Blige singing at her church in New York, an undeniable talent from the start. The collection of artists interviewed for the documentary is not lacking in known names, from Sean P. Diddy Combs, Taraji P. Henson, and album producer Andre Harrell, all bringing their own unique experiences of working with Blige and their friendships. There’s nearly enough there, with Blige subtly opening up about her inspiration on the songs of the album, but there’s still an aimless projection about this documentary. There’s not enough live-footage, dissection of the songs, and no clear cut point of it all.
By the time we get to the end of Mary J Blige’s My Life we’ve heard enough. She’s an artist that I love both for her music and her excellent acting. Watch her in Mudbound. She’s amazing. But this is a documentary where more can be learned by just reading the Wikipedia entry. It’s produced by Combs and Blige as well and the biggest head slapper is the ending, which involves a circle of Blige’s fans expressing their love for her work. It’s nice for her. For us it’s just wasting our time. Mary J. Blige is great. She doesn’t need a documentary to tell her that.
MARY J BLIGE’S MY LIFE PREMIERES ON AMAZON PRIME THIS FRIDAY JUNE 25TH
1 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady