TIFF Review: ‘JT + The Tennessee Kids’

TIFF 2016

3 mins read

JT + The Tennessee Kids
(USA, 90 min.)
Dir. Jonathan Demme
Programme: Galas (World Premiere)


Put on your best suit and tie for JT + The Tennessee Kids. This fun, sexy, and energetic doc is upbeat entertainment.

Director Jonathan Demme (Stop Making Sense) captures the final performances in the two-year 20/20 Experience Tour of Justin Timberlake and The Tennessee Kids as they end their run in Las Vegas. Demme follows Timberlake backstage as he and his team readies for the big show and then offers the viewer a premium seat for a fully immersive experience.

The film is a straightforward concert doc with nothing but musical performances to fill all 90 minutes of its running time. Unlike say, Roger Waters: The Wall, this doc lets Timberlake’s songs and energy speak for themselves. As a result, the film misses the opportunity to develop the material in Timberlake’s body of work and to take the songs beyond their upbeat sex appeal. JT is more about entertainment, sex appeal, and upbeat dance moves than songs with weight and meaning, and Demme’s doc shows that Timberlake delivers all three in a single electrifying performance.

Timberlake puts on a great show as he takes to the stage with a big brass band, sexy dancers, and soulful back-up singers. The pop star uses the massive stage to its full advantage as the scale of his performances enlivens the doc. It’s like a 90-minute Superbowl half-time show with slick Tom Ford suits.

Just as Timberlake impresses with his stylish moves, so too does Demme with some fancy camerawork. JT + The Tennessee Kids is consistently engaging thanks to the range of coverage that Demme presents as he captures the concert from every possible angle. The elaborate cinematography by Declan Quinn doesn’t overwhelm the dancing, either, as the doc, like Timberlake, uses the full scope of the concert to its advantage. The montage, which editor Paul Snyder splices together seamlessly, affords a perfect vantage point that captures every bead of sweat or flicker of energy on the stage. With the wild and entertaining JT + The Tenessee Kids, Jonathan Demme brings the “sexy” back to concert docs.

JT + The Tennessee Kids debuts on Netflix later this year.

TIFF runs Sept. 8 – 18. Please visit tiff.net for more information.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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