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‘Love to Love You, Donna Summer’ is Frustratingly Unfocused (Review)

When Donna Summer went into the studio with Giorgio Moroder in 1974 to record “Love to Love You Baby,” she could have never known how much her life would change.

The song, first released overseas in the summer of 1975, became one of the most successful and notorious of the disco era. Filled with Summer’s orgasmic moaning, the full 16-minute version of the song became a dance floor filler in nightclubs around the world.

It marked a shift in Summer’s career and she went on to become the “Queen of Disco.”

Oscar and Emmy-winning director Roger Ross Williams and Summer’s daughter Brooklyn Sudano collaborate on this new HBO documentary about her life and career. It’s inherently watchable, occasionally fascinating, and frustratingly unfocused.

The Verdict

There has been a recurring theme in documentaries about very famous people lately. Lots of kids trying to come to terms with the legacy of their parents versus the person they knew. Or didn’t really grow up with in many cases.

Let’s get one thing clear: this film is packed with truly incredible footage of an artist in her prime. It makes me wish we could get a nicely remastered live release because there is amazing concert footage here. We also get a lot of home movies and behind the scenes clips from when Donna was touring the world.

There are multiple scenes of Donna’s children sorting through memorabilia like they’re doing research on somebody they didn’t really know. At times, it simply feels inert.

This is one case where I think that more ‘talking heads’ and interviews with those who worked with her could have provided a lot more context. Hell, Giorgio Moroder helped to shape her into a disco diva and he’s barely a blip in the nearly 2 hour film.

For fans, it’s still an irresistible look at a legend. If you only casually know about Donna Summer, I am not sure that this has quite enough to keep you engaged.

Grade: C+

How to Watch ‘Love to Love You, Donna Summer’

Love to Love You, Donna Summer‘ premiered this week on HBO. It’s also streaming on the newly relaunched Max app (the result of the Warner Bros Discovery merger).

Looking for more movie recommendations? Check out our May streaming preview!

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