Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Who Do You Love

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Leonard Chess Subject of Second Bio-Pic

Remember a few years ago when Truman Capote was the subject of back-to-back bio-pics? The first one, Capote, featured Philip Seymour Hoffman in an Oscar-winning performance as the flamboyant late cultural icon. Sadly, nobody really noticed when Toby Jones delivered an equally-impressive impersonation in Infamous the very next year.
Today, we have a similar situation with Who Do You Love, a movie recounting the life and times of Leonard Chess (Alessandro Nivola), co-founder with his brother Phil (Jon Abrahams) of the legendary record label which bore their name. If you happened to catch Cadillac Records, then you already have a good idea of what to expect from this slight variation on the same theme.
What’s funny is that both flicks were shot in the spring of 2008, but Cadillac had the god fortune of being released first. For, as Karl Marx once said, “History always repeats itself: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” And that nifty little aphorism appears to apply in this case, because this critic certainly found it hard to take the same story seriously this time around. Instead, I spent most of the time comparing the picture to its predecessor, as if that production had somehow set the standard.
This is unfortunate, because this film is basically sound, too, except for what I would consider a trio of glaring flaws. First, there’s the aforementioned sense of déjà vu. Second, there’s the problem of the plethora of cringe-inducing cursing, with a couple of characters being particularly fond of the f-word. Thirdly, there’s a glaring factual flaw in that for some reason a mythical singer named Ivy Mills (Megalyn Echikunwoke) records the classic “At Last” instead of the incomparable Etta James. Talk about turning history on its head!
Otherwise, the proceedings are fairly entertaining both in terms of the plot and the musical renditions with several accomplished bluesmen installed in pivotal roles, such as Keb Mo’ as Jimmie Rogers and Robert Randolph as Bo Diddley. Other cast members include David Oyelowo as Muddy Waters, Chi McBride as Willie Dixon and Miko DeFoor as Little Walter.
Too bad this flick lost the race to the theaters, otherwise director Jerry Zaks (Everybody Loves Raymond) might’ve had a hit on his hands instead of a Johnny Come Lately destined to be forever thought of as a cheap imitation.

Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 91 Minutes
Distributor: International Film Circuit

No comments: