What Happened, Miss Simone?


Biography / Documentary / Music


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September 03, 2016 at 09:57 PM



Hugh M. Hefner as Himself
Walter Cronkite as Himself
720p 1080p
752.46 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 41 min
P/S 9 / 73
1.55 GB
23.976 fps
1hr 41 min
P/S 7 / 58

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Blake Peterson 6 / 10

An Engaging Documentary About Soul's National Treasure

Nina Simone is a national treasure. Don't lump her together with the Arethas, the Donnas, the Esthers; she was a soul singer of tremendous originality and personality. She didn't have to enthusiastically remind a man to r-e-s-p-e-c-t her, to rely on anybody besides herself to let her potent baritone shake the bodies of the public — whether a song she shared with the world was written by a pop professional or her and herself alone, Simone's voice never allowed, and still doesn't allow, for casual listening. You want to jump up and find a pair of expensive soundproof headphones just so you can absorb the stealth of her voice and her Baby Grand. Nothing can compare.

"What Happened, Miss Simone?", directed by documentarian Liz Garbus, captures everything most adored about Simone and the things that made her a particularly flawed human. There are plenty of moments left for us to sit back and let chills creep up our arm through astonishing concert footage, but there are also moments that let it be known that Simone, though a national treasure, was a woman continuously suffering with inner demons left untouched throughout most of her career.

New aspects of her complicated life are brought to us through several interviews, mostly with her daughter (who drops a bomb by informing us that after the dissolution of Simone's marriage to her father did she become an abusive wrecking ball). The film goes all the way back to Simone's lonely childhood, in which she dedicated most of her time to her demanding classical piano career, to her final years as a performer. What happened in- between is much more compelling than I ever expected; I knew that Simone began as a crooner in the diva category, eventually turning her attention to Civil Rights (as evidenced by remarkable songs such as "Mississippi Goddam" and "Strange Fruit"), but I didn't realize how much she suffered in her life. She was an undiagnosed manic depressive for the majority of her career. Her husband/manager hit her on a regular basis. She almost faded into homelessness after her mental disorders completely took over in the 1970s.

"What Happened, Miss Simone" is such a good documentary because it as much idolizes Simone as it does sees her at a ground level; some documentaries view their subject as a star, never slowing down to cover the details that might make them look bad. But Garbus' knack for balancing wonder with sorrow (highs and lows are at the most shattering during Simone's performance at the 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival and her daughter's admission that she was suicidal because of Simone's abuse as a teenager) is supreme, making for a well-rounded doc both informational and unglamorous. It represents Simone for who she really was, and though I would prefer a potential feature length, perhaps focusing on a particularly harrowing point in her life, "What Happened, Miss Simone" goes over everything we could ever want to know about Simone. There's just a feeling of unplaceable skimpiness, as though Garbus wanted to make an on screen biography, paying more attention to some things than others. But I can hardly complain — I liked Simone then, and I like her even more now. Presently, however, I feel like I understand her. No longer can I listen to my favorite Simone LP, "Pastel Blues", in the same way.

Reviewed by planktonrules 9 / 10

Whether or not you've heard of Miss Simone, you really should give this film a try.

I've got to be up front about this...I don't remember hearing anything about Nina Simone before I watched this film. While she was a very famous jazz performer, her meteoric career all but fizzled by the time I was a very young child. I also am not a particular fan of modern jazz, either. So in some ways, I am not the ideal audience for this wonderful new documentary from Liz Garbus. However, because of my work in the mental health field, the film really resonated with me and I think you should give it a look as well. Apparently, Netflix ALSO thinks you should be watching it, as they send out a mass emailing to many people recommending you see this new film--which you now can thanks to their streaming service.

Nina was a child prodigy at the piano. However this was back in the 1930s...and she was a tiny black girl growing up in the South. Yet despite the racially charged climate, she had a spark of genius-- such that despite the times, she was helped by people to help realize her dream of being a musician. However, instead of the concert classical pianist she was trained to be, she sort of accidentally fell into the jazz industry and was soon known at least as much as her singing as her genius at the piano. This led to a lot of financial success in the 1950s and into the 60s and life was looking grand for this lady.

So how, then, at the height of her fame did Simone's career start to slip? And why did she walk away from this life? This confusing journey about mental illness, to me, is the most interesting part of this documentary. While it's not perfect (a lot of her more bizarre behaviors later in life are omitted from the story as well as her second marriage), the film is extremely rare in quality and is extremely well made. Considering that Simone died from cancer over a decade ago, this should have been a very tough film to make. Yet, fortunately, they had recordings and diaries of Simone speaking her mind and explaining her strange journey through life. Garbus also was fortunate to have Simone's daughter's cooperation as well as her first husband and friends--giving you amazing access into Simone's world as well as into her mental illness that impacted but never destroyed her career. This sort of access alone is more than enough reason to see this film.

By the way, if you like this film, also trying watching another great Garbus documentary, Bobby Fischer Against the World. The character in this film is, in many ways, much like Simone--with lots of brilliance as well as lots of personal demons.

Reviewed by MortalKombatFan1 8 / 10

To Be Young, Gifted and Black

"What Happened, Miss Simone?" is a documentary that premiered on Netflix on June 26, 2015. It's about the life and times of singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone.

Using a vast array of archival footage and interviews with Miss Simone and those who knew her, the movie, Directed by Liz Garbus, paints an interesting picture of this singular talent. She started playing piano at four and performing in church at revivals, when she wanted to be the first black classical pianist to play professionally, music schools wouldn't take her - just because of the color of her skin. Nina went on to playing jazz in clubs and her unique style drew attention. She soon met her husband and manager Andrew Stroud - from there her life was filled with great heights and shattering lows. Nina's diary entries talked about spousal abuse, how she suffered from manic depression and how with her constant touring took a tole on her, saying she was being "worked like a dog" by her husband.

Things changed in 1963 when four little girls where killed in a racially instigated church bombing in Alabama. Nina wrote "Mississippi Goddamn" as a response and from then dedicated herself to civil rights for black Americans. This hurt her career commercially - a Harlem concert in 1969 with her singing "are you ready to smash white things, to kill if you have to" is very telling of the scorn and anger she felt against discrimination she had witnessed her whole life, as well as her passion for change.

The movie is a candid and honest telling of Nina's life, and in a revealing scene her daughter Lisa reveals that she was abused by her mother during their time living in Africa.

Nina Simone is a complex and fascinating woman, and this movie is a very revealing look at her life. It has enough interesting concert and interview footage from the fifties to the eighties to satiate returning fans, as well as give viewers new to her music the definitive look at the life of the "High Priestess of Soul"

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