Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story (2022)
Yet another independent biopic served up as cannon fodder for the streaming services, Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story is released just a year after the much superior Robin Roberts presents: Mahalia. Starring Ledisi, who previously portrayed the gospel singer in Selma, this film has all the enthusiasm and polish of a middling high school musical. A cast that pitches their performances to the bleachers is served by a perfunctory script that telegraphs each point, albeit in a somewhat haphazard manner. As such, it calls to mind the often misattributed quote from Wilfred Sheed in his review of Hurry Sundown... “To criticize it would be like tripping a dwarf”.
The films opens with an interview in Germany 1981. A radio host asks Jackson about the racism she faced during her career, at which point we flashback to Atlanta 1966. Arriving for her performance, a security guard grandly gesticulates to the entrance designated for ‘coloreds’. Jackson makes her way through to the theatre’s kitchen where she breaks out into the African American spiritual “I Been ’Buked and I Been Scorned”. A return to the German radio station precipitates a query from the host regarding Jackson’s mother. Cue flashback to New Orleans 1917, wash, rinse, repeat.
Yet when the film chooses not to preface each scenario with a leading question, it abandons all sense of structure and chronology. A scene in which Jackson meets Martin Luther King Jr is followed by her ending her contract with Decca Records, even though these events occurred almost twenty years apart, and in the reverse order! The result is a biopic that’s more show-reel than film. If so, Columbus Short fares better than most with a creditable performance as Dr King, though his recollection of a dream he once had is tactless.
In short, Remember Me is entirely forgettable.
as Mahalia Jackson
as Cab Calloway
as Ed Sullivan
Chester Gregory as Duke Ellington and an unidentified actor as Louis Armstrong
Though Mahalia Jackson made several appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, none of them occurred in 1955.