Review: Aretha Franklin doc 'Amazing Grace' soothes the soul

April 11, 2019

    Courtesy of NEON

In case you didn’t know, the world never deserved Aretha Franklin.

 

In the new documentary “Amazing Grace” we see why. The concert film, pieced together by Alan Elliott, chronicles the recording of the most successful gospel album of all time where Franklin, in partnership with the New Bethel Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles and the prestigious California Southern Choir, held two church services where they made the album “Amazing Grace.” Much like “Apollo 11” did with the moon landing, Elliott has taken it upon himself to dig up archival footage from 1972, and restore it to 4K high definition, giving the feel that someone could have recorded this yesterday.

 

Of course, we know it didn’t - but that’s the craftsmanship at play here. Originally conceived as a TV special directed by Sydney Pollack (who, at the time, had no idea how to shoot a concert special) “Amazing Grace” sat in limbo for decades with the shot footage presumed to never see the light of the day. Thankfully, Elliott took it upon himself to deliver as close to Pollack’s vision as he could, unearthing a treasure trove of unused footage and showing us the queen of soul at her most raw and vulnerable. You’ll see touching moments between herself and her father, and you’ll witness the beautiful interactions Franklin had with spectors who were just along for the ride. We should be so jealous.

 

Watching “Amazing Grace,” though somewhat lackluster as on overall film, all you can do is admire the boisterous voice Franklin gave to the world. Through her vocals, we see the sweat glisten from her forehead, the tears of everyone in attendance, and her endless devotion to her faith. Elliot does a terrific job intertwining this presentation as one, never taking the focus away from Franklin who continued to provide a beacon of prosperity for her adoring fans. While “Amazing Grace” doesn’t highlight the kind and giving individual she was before her death in 2018 (this is strictly a concert film, but a good one!) watching her in this element is still a notable consolation prize.

 

Grade: B

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