Review: Bitchin’ (Tribeca 2021)

Title: Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Sacha Jenkins
Starring: Rick James, Big Daddy Kane, George Clinton
Runtime: 1 hr 51 mins

What It Is: A documentary that profiles the man and the music of funk icon Rick James. From his humble beginnings in Buffalo, NY to his superfreakish rise up the charts. As with any figure he’s got his ups and downs. His hits and personal misses. These are discussions on the demons that manifested during his lifetime and the ones that ultimately ended up taking him from the world.

What We Think: Jenkins pulls no punches. He gets into every crevice of the bad doings Rick James did while alive. It’s the little moments, however, where Jenkins’ direction thrives. He’s got some great talking heads that can speak to the life and (absolutely crazy) times Rick James dealt with. He crafts a narrative that James is more than the perception we have of him. A perception predicated by Dave Chappelle’s notorious send-up. He’s more than that and that’s evident by the portrait painted. Having his family tell of him was a good move and the doc does something that any good biographical doc should. It tells the tales and lets the audience make the choice of how it makes them feel.

Our Grade: B+, This is a very intuitive documentary. One that feels like it tells its life story naturally. As with any biography documentary, the two stars are the director and the subject. Choosing a subject as charismatic and flamboyant as Rick James adds to the draw this doc brings. Getting access to his music is perhaps the most important part of the entire film. To tell someone’s story without their stories is to not tell it at all, quite frankly. Check this film out when you get a chance.