WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT? FEATURE
part of her vocal style.
You would have thought that someone as relentlessly ambitious as Ike would have been more careful — after all, she was his number one asset, his ticket to that elusive chart hit. And that’s no insigniﬁcant point. In many ways it is Ike who is the interesting character in this ﬁlm - the Ike who was so obsessive that he made all his band members live under his roof so that he could call them up for rehearsal or recording sessions at any time of the day or night; the Ike who, when he got the money, installed a video surveillance system in every room and watched them screwing fans for a bit of in-house entertainment. The Ike who, during the ﬁlming of What '3 Love Got To Do With It, a lot of which took place in the original house, was found posing like some superstar and signing photos of himself in the garden. Asked about the beatings, he told one reporter recently ‘The times when I slapped her were when she was looking sad’. ‘Oh,’ said the reporter, ‘did she look any happier after you slapped her?’
It may sound a bit crazy to object to a biopic telling it the way it was, but in many ways, What’s Love Got To Do With It is a deeply frustrating film because we get so little of Tina. It shows all too well how her personality was totally repressed. how on the few occasions that she dared voice an opinion or assert an identity in any way different from that bestowed upon her by Ike, he was down on her with the weight of his ﬁst and all the terror his despotic mind could muster.
The fact that, during the press showing of the ﬁlm, a spontaneous cheer rose from the hack- ﬁlled auditorium when at last Tina starts punching and kneeing Ike in the back of a Dallas-bound stretch limo, is a credit to the ﬁlm’s ability to engage. But it is also implicitly a cry of ‘We want Tina!’ Not this angelic doormat, but the feisty ﬁreball we thought we knew.
For the absence of Tina in the ﬁlm has to do with more than her imprisonment by Ike. If the autobiography is anything to go by, those niggling suspicions that the ﬁlm generates about the veracity of its characterisation of our heroine have some justiﬁcation. It’s hard to imagine Angela Basset’s Turner recalling a former classmate and saying ‘Little bitch! I could still kill her if I saw her today!’ and there are many more clues in the book that Tina has a lot more grit and spite in her than the ﬁlm acknowledges. Also, the idea that Tina was loyal to Ike because of some deep rooted horror of desertion is vastly overplayed in the screen version. The effect of this, and of rendering Tina more docile in general, is to underestimate the full horror of her situation. The fact, glossed over in the ﬁlm, that Ike had a harem of mistresses who were treated just as badly as Tina, many of whom stayed with him just as long, is one of many things which suggest that the main reason she didn’t leave sooner was the sheer practical impossibility of doing so: Ike allowed her none of her hard earned cash, she had nowhere to go, and if she did ﬁnd somewhere, he would pursue her and torment anyone who harboured her with violent threats.
Finally, and perhaps most signiﬁcantly, in concentrating on the appalling treatment that Tina received from Ike, the ﬁlm, unlike the autobiography, completely loses sight of the ambition that led her to Ike in the ﬁrst place and ﬁnally saw her launch her solo career. Two
decades before Madonna, Turner was the girl who wanted it all — glamour, fancy outﬁts, smart cars, and most of all to sing. What '3 Love Got To Do With It kicks off with a pre-credits sequence that has a baby Tina singing her heart out in the church choir back in good ol’ Nutbush. It is sentimental, typical Hollywood, but that spunky little kid, shaking with energy and improvising madly, much to the chagrin of a strait-laced choir mistress, gets nearer to satisfying the big question about where that amazing voice and performance presence comes from than Angela Basset’s moving but ultimately unrevealing scenes. Cl
What’s Love Go! To Do With It opens in Scotland on Friday 8 October.
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The List 8—21 October I993 7