This is a documentary about Quincy Jones, the iconic American musician, composer and producer. His career spans decades. Emmys are still dropping in his wake. Swing, rhythm and blues, hip hop, movie soundtracks; his creations have all left their indelible mark. He’s an extraordinary man, and this should be an extraordinary story but, unfortunately, it’s not. It’s all very pretentious and feels more like a presidential promo than a rock legend’s biography. And unlike Quincy’s music, it’s got no soul.
Quincy grew up in poverty on the south side of Chicago. His mother was institutionalized when he was seven and he and his brother were brought up by his father and grandmother. His street urchin days are related by Quincy in an intimate voiceover but, just as we’re connecting, the film cuts away to the present. This keeps happening and, while flashbacks might work in drama, they fatally fracture a stroll through personal history.
Artists who claw their way from rags to riches usually have poignant moments to tell about agonies of self-doubt, but not so Quincy. Once he laid his eyes on a piano, the music, and his life, began. He hopped nimbly from one stepping stone to the next and was soon working with the greats, who welcomed him into the fold. It’s a charming fairytale and matches the glossy footage of Quincy rubbing shoulders with the rich and the famous. But we already knew Sinatra was his buddy, and we assume Oprah returns his calls, so that’s not what we wanted to see.
Strangely, there’s a complete absence of interviews with people who knew Quincy along the way. Some of them might agree with the maestro’s version of how the cards fell, but others would surely not, and it’s those that are the most intriguing. Quincy admits to being a workaholic and geniuses are often tyrants, but no musicians were invited to dispel this cliché. He also admits to being a womanizer, but voiceovers from two of his exes offer only platitudes about workloads, lack of personal growth, and dah-de-dah-de-dah.
Quincy sired six daughters and a son, but the only one who is given face-time is Quincy Jones Junior. He utters a few guarded words and Quincy Senior’s response is equally impersonal. There are plenty of Kodak moments with Quincy blowing out birthday candles, surrounded by his offspring, and some staged scenes of them all gathered around his hospital bed. But these women are never identified, let alone invited to speak.
However, there is one daughter who pops on and off the screen quite regularly, and that’s Rashida, the writer, producer and director of this documentary. Which is when it gets interesting. What explanation did she give her five sisters for not interviewing them about their father? Or did she in fact interview them but whatever they said got left on the cutting room floor? It that’s the case, perhaps another of the Jones Girls will be stepping up and Quincy 2 will soon be gracing our screens.
Streaming on Netflix now.
Produced by Le Train Train, Bob’s Your Uncle, Pesmen.
Executive producers: Jane Rosenthal, Berry Welsh, Adam Fell.