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Oscar winner Barbara Kopple follows R&B singer Sharon Jones over the year she battles pancreatic cancer.

Jacob Blickenstaff

2 out of 4 stars

Title
Miss Sharon Jones
Directed by
Barbara Kopple
Classification
PG
Country
USA
Language
English

Oscar winner Barbara Kopple's documentaries are observational, found in the moment. There's no sonorous voice-over, no Eye-of-God contextualizing. When material is flowing, as it does in her most lauded films – Harlan County, U.S.A.; American Dream; Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing – there's no one better at capturing it. This one should be emotional: Kopple follows R&B singer Sharon Jones over the year she battles pancreatic cancer. Jones is bubbly and personable. On stage with her band, the Dap-Kings, she's a dynamo (the music scenes are the film's highlights). But cancer, ironically, turns out to be a hard subject to dramatize. We spend the majority of the doc accompanying Jones to doctors' appointments and chemotherapy sessions. As compelling as this is to the person going through it, it's not fascinating to watch. Because Kopple is allergic to exposition, we don't learn enough about Jones away from her cancer. And because Jones is not especially insightful about her disease (not many people could be), we don't learn enough about her within it, either.

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