Aretha! What more do you need to know?
Come to this for the joy of the music and the significance of the moment (not to mention some of the people captured on screen).
OK, to be fair, this is more a behind-the-scenes look at the making of one of the most famous gospel albums of all time than a full documentary.
What you get is a peek at Aretha working, as opposed to just purely performing. You get to see her roots, some of the depth of her beliefs, and a little of her family and background.
Recorded live with an audience, Sydney Pollack (Sliding Doors, Eyes Wide Shut) tried to capture the event and energy. This is not Pollack’s Stop Making Sense. It doesn’t create a story, it is unable to really capture the feeling of live gospel, and the quality of the visuals is pretty grainy (though the sound is restored nicely). There are reasons for all this, not the least that it is from 1972 and many technical issues plagued the shooting and post-production. Aretha herself never wanted this movie released, even after they solved many of the sound problems; no one in public knows what her objections were.
But it is released now and it is a gift to her public. It isn’t her best performance. The music isn’t the most exciting, nor is it organized in a way to pull you along or take you on an emotional journey. It simply is. It is a visual album that is a balm to the nerves and delight to your heart, even if it isn’t your type of music or even your religion (for the record, it is neither to me). But it is worth your time.