Superb, stunning performances cement the viewer’s attention for the entirety of this quasi-nonfictional portrait of three, talented African American sisters, striving for notoriety in the late 1960’s, Detroit, Michigan. Loosely based upon “The Supremes” .
With the formation of “Motown Records” in 1959, African Americans initiated their financial destiny; Barry Gordy, Jr. founder, is pivotal in paving the yellow-brick- path for notables like Jackie Wilson, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Diana Ross and The Supremes. This is a richer scenario than we were subjected to; but the gifted actors transcended the ubiquitously tiresome plot; united warring daughters, fighting the shackles of a tyrannical, well-intentioned, religiously patronizing mother.
“Sister” the eldest and seasoned daughter (luminously beautiful, Carmen Ejogo) is the lead singer; bountifully sensual sprite; she’s hypnotic and renders men incapable of casting their eyes elsewhere; a living, pulsating, titillating metaphor for the “honey” bees are powerless to reject.
“Dee” the brainy sibling, sings only for the fare for medical school; Tika Sumpter gives an intelligent depiction of a woman determined, resolved to flourish on her own terms and dictates.
“Sparkle” has inherited her mother’s genius for composing; with each dawn and every dusk lyrics gallop through her mind, inform her day; she is naive, shy, but stalwart in her quest. Jordin Sparks (American Idol winner) is sensational as the idealistic girl, a chrysalis transformed into a formidable woman. Initially a simple soul, culminating in an individual of tremendous complexities; powerfully refusing to compromise.
“Emma Anderson” is intransigent, stubborn, sullen, but loving mother; her illusions have dissipated, her demons at bay; religion a haven, an oasis, anchor in a world of variables; she wants what all mothers want, a refined, happy life for her children; and what all mothers fear; progeny repeating the sins, misdemeanors, wretchedness fostered, suffered by their lineage.
Whitney Houston is “Emma” (1963- 2012) and the film is dedicated to her. She is remarkable as the tortured, controlling single parent, pulverizing in her religious passion; stymied, bereft of empathy in acknowledging the desires, insecurities, needs of her daughters. The portrayal is heart -wrenchingly poignant, imagining the nadir of her soul, the bleakness of her spirit; her inability to recognize inimitable, god -given talent, divinely hers, a beauty rarely rendered, somehow poisoned by living; pain lacerating the dawn; relieved by the solace, darkness of ever- present, everlasting night.