When Dionne Warwick says “Don’t make me over,” what she really means is don’t fuck her over. Don’t you dare underestimate her.
The music industry wasn’t so friendly to people like her when Dionne Warwick came along with that big, undeniable voice of hers. But she wasn’t going to take no for an answer, and with talent like hers, she wouldn’t have to. With tenacity to match her talent, and a savvy way with people, Warwick went from singing in her church choir to international superstardom.
Directors David Heilbroner and Dave Wooley assemble a who’s-who of talking heads: Quincy Jones, Elton John, Gloria Esteban, and of course cousin Whitney Houston, who appears through archival footage. Oh, and don’t forget Bill Clinton, who seems to have dedicated his retirement to appearing in a truly vast array of documentaries. I think he pops up in at least 1 in 3.
The film’s greatest asset is of course Warwick herself, who seems ageless and resplendent, and highly entertaining. As a formative and influential player, she’s got so many great insights into the industry -as an artist, a woman, a person of colour, and the woman tells a hell of a story. She’s been everywhere, won everything, met everyone.
As far as music documentaries go, this one feels essential.
Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over is an official 2021 TIFF selection.