Mary J. Blige's My Life

Mary J. Blige's My Life ★★½

Mary J Blige is a rare artist who wears her life and heart on her sleeve. When she speaks or sings, or just pops up on screen, you listen. Her sheer presence is gospel. As a documentary celebrating one of her most iconic albums My Life on its 25th anniversary, director Vanessa Roth ventures into her childhood and rise to fame, and what made the album such a sweeping success. There's a decent rotation of illustrations, interviews, and concert footage to benchmark the occasion, but it seems to be holding itself back - both the struggle to make the album happen as well as the celebration Blige finally has to step into the light and look at it from the rearview mirror. She survived a lot of trauma before and during the making of, so it's understandable that she would not want to dredge up more than what she needs to - and what she does open up about (substance abuse, growing up in the Projects, abusive relationships, etc.) is what makes her so relatable and inspiring to fans.

But about halfway through, the documentary pivots more from the making of the album to her overall impact with her fans, so much so it made me wonder how it side-stepped going through the tracklist more, the specific success it achieved on the charts, etc. I don't think Blige should've had to offer her trauma on a platter for the film, but it's also too similar to other music documentaries today that don't achieve a specific narrative that draws us closer to their subjects. The tone comes across as too static for an icon who has triumphed repeatedly throughout her life - probably more so than most artists today. If this was treated objectively, and not produced by Blige / Sean Combs, the chronicled storytelling could've been painted a deeper and complete picture of her everlasting impact.

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