Two hours doesn’t feel like nearly enough time to properly chronicle the life of a giant like Quincy Jones.
Two hours doesn’t feel like nearly enough time to properly chronicle the life of a giant like Quincy Jones. The man is one of the most interesting and accomplished artistic figures of the 20th century and is still alive and kicking in the 21st, having not lost a step of wit or verve. So it’s no surprise that Quincy, the intimate but flat look at his life, comes off like little more than an entertaining hagiography, a documentary too sanitized and straightforward to truly capture the breadth of his achievements and importance.
Co-directed by Jones’ own daughter Rashida (of “Parks & Rec” fame) and Australian filmmaker Alan Hicks, the film packs as many of the biggest bullet points in its runtime as possible. You could lay Jones’ Wikipedia page end to end along a Final Cut Pro timeline and see the doc’s overall structure, with sweet, little moments with his family in the present day and recollections of his health issues peppered throughout to provide the semblance of storytelling. But it mostly ticks off the necessary boxes, running down all the amazing musical gifts Q has given the world over the years.
Even though it feels rote, it’s those celebratory moments that ring the most true. Chances are, most viewers will know at least two or three big facts about Jones, but he has done so much that the film will still surprise people. Maybe you knew he produced Off the Wall and Thriller for Michael Jackson, sure, but did you know he also made Leslie Gore’s “It’s My Party?” That’s how long this man has been around! In the telling of his high points in the world of music, he feels less and less like an actual person and more like a particularly charming deity.
Hearing many of the broad strokes from Jones himself makes the proceedings fun, even if that means every story falls into the repeated structure of him breaking some record or setting some sonic milestone in between hooking up with hot women and having more kids. The casual way he dispenses with sordid information has Q giving Ric Flair a run for his money, but for viewers expecting the kind of tawdry details that ran amok in this year’s viral profile for Vulture, there are no new revelations about bisexual movie stars or anything of the sort. It’s clear Rashida Jones was more interested in capturing the man she grew up with as her father and lionizing his historical relevance than playing into any gossip-bait zeitgeist.
Normally, that hesitance to probe further would be a real handicap for a documentary, but what’s missing in outright critique or deeper analysis of Quincy’s life as a whole is more than made up for in the segments detailing his childhood and the troubling relationship he had with his schizophrenic mother. It’s a subject that is clearly difficult for Jones to discuss or unpack, which stands in stark contrast to the cavalier way he tackles the rest of his 85 years here on Earth. These portions of the film help to contextualize his sprawling family life and bring into focus just how humble his beginnings were.
The end result is something a little more fascinating than the average Hollywood documentary on Netflix, but still an easygoing softball of a picture. It’s engaging, and Q is compelling enough to watch even if he were merely reading his own liner notes. For a man whose music was the first song played during the moon landing, maybe it’s not so bad that this living legend is getting his roses while he can still smell them.