When audiences look back on 2018 in documentaries, many are going to be surprised at the number of biographical documentaries. With hits like “RBG,” “Three Identical Strangers” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” the year has largely been defined on those terms. This is where “Quincy” seeks to live. The biographical documentary follows the legendary Quincy Jones, an icon of popular music since the 1950s. From Michael Jackson to Frank Sinatra and iconic movie scores, Jones stands tall in the world of pop culture. With his daughter, Rashida Jones teamed up with documentarian Alan Hicks to turn the camera on her family and father. The resulting Netflix documentary presents a sincere look at the icon’s life and influence.
The film jumps back and forth between Jones’ present life and his work coming up. Rashida focuses her camera on the flaws of the man today while balancing the picture with his acclaim. We follow him around the world but also see him slip off the wagon. He goes to the hospital on multiple occasions and struggles with his health. Meanwhile, we juxtapose those moments with his narration of his life. He is persecuted for being a black man. He found success in music, but couldn’t hold together a relationship. While he is able to find happiness with his family, it is clear something is off for the man who influenced the world’s pop culture.
In this delicate display, Jones and Hicks paint a portrait of greatness, and the pitfalls of fame. However, “Quincy” mostly focuses on introducing and celebrating his career. For those aware of his work, there are small moments to reward your time. A look behind the curtain shows how his wizard-like ability to craft brilliant works of art. Using family videos gives us a more vulnerable look at Jones and his fears. His relationship with his mother and women is focused on for much of the movie, and while there seems to be some connection, it is never made the focus. In lieu of punching at its subject, Jones and Hicks highlight his incredible journey from Chicago to superstardom.
Sadly, some of the moments in the film run a little long, which hurts the movie on the whole. With over 2 hours of footage, cutting about 15 minutes would have been ideal. There are beautiful moments they should not touch, especially in the home videos and moments toward the end of the film. Still, a slightly tighter hand in the editing room could have found moments to cut without losing much from the film.
The form of the documentary feels surprisingly generic, recalling other films like “Life Itself” and “Spielberg” from the past few years. This doesn’t mean it is necessarily bad. However, this might be the film’s downfall from being something truly special. The collection of footage is fantastic. Watching Jackson, Miles Davis, Ray Charles, Tupac Shakur and more come across the screen is exciting. However, this plays as more of a greatest hits montage than giving insight into the creation behind their work.
“Quincy” focuses on an iconic man who was far more than a music producer. At the end of the day, this feels and looks like a love letter from a daughter to her father. It is engaging and will make a lot of viewers happy. However, while the film is good, there remains meat on the bone that could have made it great. Someday we’ll likely get that story about Quincy Jones. In the meantime, Netflix gives us an entertaining and educational journey through the life of an icon.