Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne in What's Love Got to Do with It (1993) _ Throwback
Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne in What's Love Got to Do with It (1993) _ (Photo credit: iMDb)

What’s Love Got To Do With It (1993) review & film summary

Title: What’s Love Got To Do With It (1993)
Director: Brian Gibson
Duration: 1h 58m
Cast: Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Richard T. Jones, Jennifer Lewis, Khandi Alexander

What’s Love Got To Do With It is more than one thing. It is a biopic, it is a drama, and it is at heart a musical. Based on the life of popular rock singer, Tina Turner, this film is a very important movie and although it was released thirty years ago, it’s even more significant now than ever after Tina’s sad passing earlier this year (2023).

The film chronicles Tina Turner from her early years growing up as Anna Mae Bullock in an unhappy home, with her mother leaving her behind to escape an abusive relationship, and her grandmother raising her. Through her formative years, all she had was the music which was her talent and passion. She lived in the town until she was old enough to join her mother in the city. Anna Mae arrived in the city to work and study to be a nurse according to her mother’s plans but life had other plans for her. In a dramatic turn of events, she catches the eye of Ike Turner, a blues singer who was doing well for himself playing in local bars. It was then the real story of Tina Turner began.

Anna Mae joined Ike Turner’s band and before long, they became a duo, and Ike gave her the name Tina when they got married. Their new band Ike and Tina Turner Review started to soar high but soon people were more interested in Tina than Ike, which made the man jealous. Soon enough, the beast in Ike took over and he started assaulting his wife. For a while, Tina took the abuse and made excuses for the man. But after a while, she just couldn’t take it anyway and she left. That was the redemption arc Tina began as she ventured into rock and roll at a time when people were moving away from the blues. Although there were doubts that Tina could do it at her age, she squashed those doubts and went on to become one of the most influential artists of that era. All without the help of her abusive ex-husband.

What’s Love Got To Do With It tells the story in a way that makes it seem real and even though the events are dramatized, there is evidence that things really did play out the way the movie portrayed. At least a few facts are true: Ike was a loser who abused his wife continuously, Tina endured the abuse for longer than she was supposed to because she loved the man, and eventually Tina got out and with her talent worked her way to the top. Everything else is extra information.

Although this is not the usual Laurence Fishburne kind of role, he showed his versatility with this one, playing the villain. Angela Bassett should’ve gotten an Oscar for what she did in this film though and that nomination wasn’t enough. Thirty years later, Bassett is still getting recognition for her electric performances but it is in What’s Love Got to Do With It that she peaked.

Directed by Brian Gibson, the movie was a success and received generally positive reviews upon its June 1993 release. The film is based on Tina Turner’s 1986 memoir, I, Tina: My Life Story.

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
IMDb: 7.3/10

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