Will the Marvin Gaye Movie Be Any Good?

Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 19 2013 12:24 PM

Will the Marvin Gaye Movie Be Any Good?

Jesse Martin as Marvin Gaye in Sexual Healing


The biopic is a mostly benighted genre. One of the ways to escape the category’s pitfalls is to focus on a specific period in a famous person’s life, rather than attempting to present the whole sweep from birth to death. Think Lincoln, for instance. But this strategy alone is not enough: You need a writer who can avoid the cringe-worthy exposition such exercises are prone to.

Judging from its promo reel, Sexual Healing, Julien Temple’s Marvin Gaye picture, may have needed a rewrite. The movie zeroes in on the early 1980s, when Gaye’s life was unraveling, and, in star Jesse Martin, it has a Gaye stand-in who both looks the part and can sing (at least by reputation—his rendition of the titular song in the footage below is hardly pitch perfect). It also has an appealing supporting cast, which includes S. Epatha Merkerson and Clarke Peters. But then it has clunkers like this in the script: “Is there a problem?” “Yeah, there is. I’m Marvin Gaye.”


The movie is apparently scheduled for an April 1, 2014 release; as Tambay Obenson notes over at IndieWire, that’s both the 30th anniversary of Gaye’s death and a Tuesday. Given the midweek premiere date, it’s not clear how widely distributed this film will be. Whatever its future, I hope the finished product feel like a more fitting tribute to the musical legend than the four minutes above.

Update, Dec. 1: The promo reel has been removed at the request of New Nation Film.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Why Time Is on Our Side in the Fight Against Ebola

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Catacombs Where You Can Stroll Down Hallways Lined With Corpses

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.


How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

We Need to Talk: A Terrible Name for a Good Sports Show by and About Women

Trending News Channel
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 4:15 PM The Trials of White Boy Rick A Detroit crime legend, the FBI, and the ugliness of the war on drugs.
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 1 2014 4:55 PM Blood Before Bud? Must a gentleman’s brother always be the best man at his wedding?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 3:02 PM The Best Show of the Summer Is Getting a Second Season
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 4:46 PM Ebola Is No Measles. That’s a Good Thing. Comparing this virus to scourges of the past gives us hope that we can slow it down.
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?