Even artists have their own working class—those hustlers with relatively steady work, ever waiting on that one merciful break—and several of its members are the focus of This Time, director Victor Mignatti’s engaging but near fatally bifurcated dispatch from the fringes of the floundering music industry. The obvious center of the doc’s larger story (wherein three sets of lifers take one last shot at the big time) are the Sweet Inspirations, best known as backup singers for a past generation of one-namers like Elvis, Aretha, and Dusty. A trio at the time of shooting (Myrna Smith, Estelle Brown, and Portia Griffin), it famously counted Whitney Houston's mother, Cissy Houston, among its members. Similar comeback story lines involving club diva Pat Hodges and a stalled cabaret singer named Bobby Belfry are well-blended by dovetailing themes and snappy editing, but it’s the Inspirations who cry out for the star treatment. Tantalizing snippets from its combative history and rotating membership are tossed to the sidelines; the members' personality clashes and mutual psychoanalyzing hint at a much better story left untold. You would never know, for instance, that two original Inspirations died during filming. Without meaning to, Mignatti compounds the injury of several careers spent trying to step out of the background. Michelle Orange
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