This Time


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
, 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