I’ve been a fan of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings ever since the “Up in the Air” soundtrack introduced me to her soulful sounds, gleefully delighting in her retro feel. It’s to our detriment as a culture that the documentary about her had to come in the wake of her diagnosis of cancer – one that many people will discover now after the singer has passed. But nonetheless, we should be glad that the singer got to participate in a documentary chronicle that focused on her resilience and determination, not memorializing her life or lamenting her frailty.
Documentarian Barbara Kopple’s “Miss Sharon Jones!” is a stirring celebration of her subject’s fight against pancreatic cancer, which sapped her of physical strength but never of mental resolve to keep performing. While Kopple might not stare into the face of illness as unflinchingly as Steve James did with Roger Ebert in “Life Itself,” for example, she does not pull punches in depicting the toll taken. Jones talks about her scheduled regimen of television watching while bedridden, yet the moment of sadness quickly dissipates into one of joy as she narrates with such enthusiasm.
There’s ultimately not a whole lot for me to talk about from a critical perspective on “Miss Sharon Jones!” Kopple’s documentary is better than your garden variety illness, concert or biographical documentary, though it comes nowhere near transcending their traditional trappings. The film also feels a bit stretched at a 90 minute runtime, though I suspect most fans of Sharon Jones will not necessarily mind spending the extra time with her – especially now that we no longer have the opportunity to gain additional time in her presence. B- /