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?

gaye_movie
Jesse Martin as Marvin Gaye in Sexual Healing

YouTube

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.”

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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.

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