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Film / What's Love Got to Do with It

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Judge: You’re going to walk out of here with absolutely nothing.
Tina: Except my name.

What's Love Got to Do with It is a 1993 Biopic, based on the 1986 autobiography of Tina Turner. The main stars were Angela Bassett, Rae'Ven Larrymore Kelly, and Laurence Fishburne. The film was directed by Brian Gibson, previously known for such films as Breaking Glass (1980) and Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986).

The film covers the life of Tina. She's first seen as little Anna Mae Bullock (Kelly), a child born and raised in Tennessee. Then teenage Anna Mae (Bassett) moves in with her mother Zelma Currie-Bullock (Jennifer Lewis) and older sister Alline (Phyllis Yvonne Stickney) in Saint Louis, Missouri. Her sister introduces her to the nightclub scene, where Anna Mae meets musician Ike Turner (Fishburne).

She at first works as Ike's vocalist before becoming his partner "Tina" and then his wife. The film goes on to examine both their music careers and turbulent personal lives through several decades as Ike becomes increasingly unstable and abusive. Eventually she leaves him (they separated in 1976, and the divorce followed in 1978), and goes solo in the music world to great success.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adapted Out: Raymond Hill, who was Craig Turner's biological father, is not portrayed in the film. In fact, Craig is depicted as Ike and Tina's first of two sons together. (They only had one – Ronnie – who was given an Age Lift in the film to make him several years younger than his brothers.)
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Tina defends Ike's abuse of her (just minutes after a beating), one of her backup singers comforting her, Jackie, then fires back at her: "Is he sorry for those other times he's hit you?"
  • Artistic License – History: A lot of events depicted in this movie were historically inaccurate. One such example was calling Private Dancer her first solo album; it was her fifth. You've also got "Proud Mary" first being performed in 1968, a year before Creedence Clearwater Revival made it a hit as their original recording. And Tina's 1968 suicide attempt (by downing sleeping pills before a show) taking place in the early '70s.
    • The Other Wiki has a whole list dedicated to some of the inaccuracies.
  • Berserk Button: For Ike, being told that all his songs sound the same and that he's got his "own style." This triggers the first scene explicitly showing his physically abusive nature.
  • Broken Bird: The film features Tina Turner's take on her own tragic backstory.
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  • Composite Character: Frost (Chi McBride) is a composite of several members of Ike and Tina's backing band. Likewise, Jackie (Vanessa Bell Calloway) is a composite of multiple backup singers (the Ikettes) and friends of Tina.
  • Disappeared Dad: He leaves Anna Mae at an early age. His eventual fate is not covered.
  • Divorce Assets Conflict: Inverted. When Tina finally left Ike, the only thing she pursued to keep was her marital name.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After years of abuse and domination by Ike, Tina finally snaps and gives him a nasty beating of his own in a violent dispute in a limo. He still tries to give orders afterwards, but a Death Glare from Tina leads him to back off, signing his gradual loss of dominance over her.
  • Domestic Abuser: Several scenes depict Ike abusing Tina.
  • Driven to Suicide: After being raped and beaten repeatedly by Ike, Tina attempts to kill herself by swallowing an entire prescription of sleeping pills. However, she is saved at the last minute by her backup singers.
  • Ear Ache: During the limo fight scene, Tina defends herself by ripping out one of Ike's earrings, tearing his ear in the process.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Ike's hair gives a handy indicator of what decade we're in: pompadour in the '50s, moptop in the '60s, afro in the '70s, and finally a regular close-shaven look in the '80s.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: In-Universe when Tina and Jackie are at the latter's house, having a good laugh mimicking Ike's mannerisms and distinctive way of speaking/talking down to people. While Jackie keeps on with the impersonation for a while, Tina stops in the middle, breaking down in tears as she is reminded that her situation with Ike is far from being a laughing matter.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Painfully subverted with some of Ike's abuse on Tina. Played straight after Tina finally snaps and mauls him in a limo, the shot cuts to outside, only hearing a loud pained scream from Ike. We next see them storm out of the car, both pretty bloodied and shaken.
  • Groin Attack: In the middle of another beating from Ike, Tina punches him off her. Despite a brief shocked pause, he quickly turns on her again, this time earning a very painful kick in the groin.
  • Happily Adopted: After Ike's ex-girlfriend drops off and disowns their two sons together with him during an argument, Tina befriends them and take them in despite the circumstances.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Ike Turner's violent streak is exaggerated into the levels of a borderline thriller villain for the movie. The film adds fictional scenes of him raping Tina and later threatening her at gunpoint (calling into question why he was never charged). Expectedly, this film was largely responsible for destroying the real Ike Turner's career.
  • Hopeless Auditionees: Before Tina (then Anna Mae) impresses Ike with her singing at the St. Louis club, several other women are given the mic to sing. They're all awful.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Tina attempts suicide by overdosing on a whole bottle of sleeping pills. Thankfully, her backup singers immediately notice something is wrong and she is rushed to the hospital.
  • Jerkass: Ike's increasingly abusive and envious treatment of Tina in the film borders an out and out Sanity Slippage. Naturally the real life counterpart wasn't too happy about his portrayal.
  • Mama Bear: Tina becomes this to both her sons and Ike's sons, and seeks revenge when one of her sons (Ike Jr.) is beaten to a bloody pulp by Ike.
  • Marital Rape License: Ike Turner pulls a Type A as part of spousal abuse pattern.
  • Mood Whiplash: An in-universe example. In a diner, Ike tells Tina to eat some cake, not too bad considering his character. But Tina refuses, saying that it's too early, and that Ike's high (and possibly drunk too). Then he gets forceful and smashes a slice in her face, and she angrily splashes her drink on her stoned husband, who's clearly making a scene. Ike gets up to beat her, but Jackie, her backup singer, stands up as well, and bears the brunt of Ike's violent rage, as he calls her out in front of the other customers in the diner for not "minding your damn business." Jackie storms out and urges Tina to leave before he kills her. Then, as if nothing ever happened there, he exclaims "Dayum, this cake good!", again offering some to Tina. That last line from Ike just makes the scene so outrageously over-the-top that it's hard not to laugh.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: The movie shows Tina's gradual defiance and divorce from Ike, culminating in a fictional scene in which she cooly brushes off a threat at gunpoint, upon which he finally gives up.
  • Parental Abandonment: Both parents abandon Anna Mae for years. Zelda invites a teenaged Anna Mae to move in with her. And makes clear she doesn't want criticism for the abandonment: "Now, don't think you're going to come live in my house and make me feel bad."
  • Playing Gertrude: Jennifer Lewis and Angela Bassett depict a mother-daughter duo. Lewis was 36-years-old at the time, Bassett 35-years-old.


Example of: