This Time: Film Review

Theme of music-biz struggle isn't strong enough to hold doc together.

Victor Mignatti's music documentary includes a where-are-they-now look at underappreciated backup singers the Sweet Inspirations, who backed Elvis and Aretha Franklin in the '60s and '70s.

Greatly overstaying its welcome at 110 minutes, Victor Mignatti's This Time, while intending to celebrate music-industry strivers, lumps together subjects who have little in common beyond the director's apparent affection for them. Commercial prospects are poor, and viewers drawn in by the best-known act here, once-great harmonizers the Sweet Inspirations, will likely be confused.

The Inspirations, a group of female backup singers who spent the '60s and '70s working with everyone from Hendrix and Elvis to Aretha Franklin, are shown here as they work on a comeback record instigated by fan and songwriter Peitor Angell. But rather than cull through the vaults to tell the history preceding this attempt (much less going to interview any of the stars who relied on them), Mignatti keeps his eye on the present tense, treating their story as no more interesting than two others: In New York he finds Bobby Belfry, a singer-songwriter nearing 40 as he waits for his big break on the cabaret scene; in Los Angeles he follows Pat Hodges, a soul belter who was homeless when she had a surprise hit on the club charts.

Presumably, Mignatti cast a wide net among artists he had easy access to, hoping that one of these showbiz stories would have a happy ending. Having waited since 2005 or so (when the Inspirations self-released the record we see them recording) without lucking into a dramatic conclusion, he offers the three stories as an anodyne follow-your-dreams anthology that doesn't know a provocative moment even when one flits by onscreen: See Hodges's self-serving attempt to rationalize her fundamentalist faith with her popularity in gay clubs -- God told her she should go be a light in their dark world, she says, a sentiment that may rub some of her fans the wrong way.

Production Companies: Village Art Pictures, Inspiration 101, LLC

Director-Editor-Director of photography: Victor Mignatti

Producers: Mark Bower, Victor Mignatti

Music: Peitor Angell

No rating, 110 minutes