HOLLYWOOD—Leslie Woodhead’s documentary creates a solid portrait of Ella Fitzgerald’s life. Audiences can leave with more of a general knowledge of who the musician was, and her impact on the music industry. The film covers a broad range of Ella’s life, hardships, and achievements from childhood to her death throughout the 20th century, which may be the most beneficial to new fans.
At nearly 90 minutes, the film gives a fair amount of time discussing each of her most significant moments. Along the way, we see the real Ella from multiple facets: Ella as a mother, friend, performer, and human being through images, her own commentary, and interviews of her family and peers in the industry.
The documentary thankfully does not fail to display Ella’s talent and unwavering passion for music in all its glory. This seems to be the most effortless work for Woodhead and the production to pull off. Her scat singing, in an extreme close-up from archival footage, immediately commands attention when the film begins. In an instant, it reveals who Ella truly was and sets up what we are about to learn. She was a lady, in the moment, doing what she loves to do and letting that gift speak for itself.
Familiar facts are mixed with rare content, such as pieces from an unaired radio interview of Fitzgerald speaking about violence and civil rights during the 1960s. She was not known to openly share her opinions on the subject, which is an insightful addition to the film without stealing too much of the spotlight.
Audiences knowing very little about Ella will witness a valuable history lesson, and prime entertainment from jazz music that transcends eras. Devoted fans and experts of Ella’s life can still enjoy this documentary. For those who know more, it is a chance to revisit what you know and admire about Ella, while diving deeper into the guarded, political side of her mind, approach to motherhood, and family life.
Canyon News viewed “Ella Fitzgerald: Just One Of Those Things” via the Austin Film Society. The film plays now online through July 10. More information is posted on the film’s website at www.ellafitzgeraldmovie.com.