03.27.2019

Diana Ross: Her Life, Love And Legacy - A Film Review

Diana Ross: Her Life, Love And Legacy - A Film Review

By Michael P Coleman

I never thought I’d have an opportunity to review a feature film starring Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winning actress Diana Ross, as I didn’t yet know how to type the last time she released a movie. 

rossmovieposterBut the greatest diva of them all is celebrating her 75th birthday in grand fashion, and with it has released Diana Ross: Her Life, Love And Legacy in theaters nationwide, in a very limited release.  The film premiered last night, and your last chance to see it on the big screen will be Thursday, March 28. 

Most of the documentary is comprised of footage we’ve seen before, from Ross’ legendary Central Park concerts from the summer of 1983.  For the new documentary, the concert footage is prefaced by heartfelt, new interviews with four of her five adult children, singing their mom’s praises.  Most effective here are her youngest son, actor / singer Evan Ross, and Blackish’s Tracee Ellis Ross, who bookends the tribute with words that every parent would want to hear from their child. 

After that opening act, the real show begins.

Diana Ross: Her Life, Love And Legacy features a dramatic montage from the legendary first, rained out concert.  Even if you’ve seen the footage before, you haven’t seen it like this: on an enormous screen, with newly remastered picture and sound.  Mother Nature hijacked Ross’ best efforts after about 45 minutes, but before ultimately giving in, she powered through: singing, dancing, and almost maternally taking care to make sure 800,000 fans safely exited Central Park’s Great Lawn.  Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, indeed.  It’s a sight to behold. 

Only Ross could turn a torrential thunderstorm into a concert’s special effect, transforming herself into a sepia Moses leading her people to safety.  Of this first show, diva-in-training Mariah Carey once said that she’s still waiting for her “Central Park moment!”

Before leaving the soggy stage, Ross promised fans she’d return the following night, and she kept that promise with a show that was far from her best concert.  However, it could have been the best show I’ve ever seen.  The new film wisely and brilliantly edited out most of Ross’ less effective moments (most notably an extended “Muscles” segment and Ross’ recitation of a poem), allowing for her unquestioned brilliance as a performing artist to be highlighted. 

And the Motown legend was in fine voice throughout,  Anyone who’s questioned her vocal power need only watch her performances of “Endless Love” and “All For One” at the end of the film.  As she once sang, it’s her house, she lives here…and she brought that house down in Central Park that hot summer night. 

Toward the end of that last number, Ross turned on her stiletto and sauntered to the back of the stage, where she spun again to face the crowd, arms outstretched, to receive the waves of emotion showered on her from her fans.  Even in that moment, when a lesser performer — a lesser person — might have succumbed to buying into their own hype, Ross seemed truly humbled. 

“If you need me call me. I’ll be back,” a teary-eyed, 39-year-old Ross said, as she exited the stage. 36 years later, we’re still talking about it — and Ross is still here, to stand, hands outstretched, and take it all in. 

Catch the new film if you can, and be reminded of the magic that is Diana Ross.

And lest I forget: Happy Birthday, Diana Ross!

Diana Ross: Her Life, Love And Legacy is playing in theaters nationwide Thursday, March 28. 

Mike Coleman headshotonly nologo 300

 Connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com, or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.