What Happened, Miss Simone?
Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”
Nina Simone had a complicated and difficult life, and this biographical documentary guides you through the peaks and valleys. You feel the crushing weight of an early racist rejection that changes the rest of her life, and you feel her raucous rage during the civil rights era; the movie is especially affecting in its portrayal of grief for Martin Luther King. You also get a front-row seat for some of her amazing stage performances that practically grab you and shake you with their intense passion. When the film accepts her diagnosis of mental illness late in life, you wonder if it gives up too easily; isn't it equally plausible that the constant racism and terrible sexism that shaped Simone's life contributed to her being so "difficult?" She was a musical genius and an emotional conduit during tumultuous times, and this film is a fine tribute to her.