Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids (2016)

March 23, 2017 · Tennessee Theatre · 9:30 P.M.

“Demme’s concert films aren’t just recordings of events–they’re cinematic embodiments of their musicians, capturing in a moment an energy that transcends time.” – Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com

“The sheer spectacle that Demme has captured will be almost impossible to fully appreciate when watched at home. . . . It’s an exuberant thrill on the big screen.” — David Ehrlich, IndieWire

After two years on the road, Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience World Tour played its final two dates in Las Vegas. Jonathan Demme and longtime cinematographer Declan Quinn (overseeing a virtual army of camera operators) captured the concerts, as well as the backstage moments, documenting an entertainer at the height of his powers.

Demme has described Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids as a “space age music film.” Rather than giving Timberlake and his crack band the “Stop Making Sense treatment” (to borrow the headline of one rave review), Demme finds sympathetic cinematic stylings for each monumentally staged musical number. At times he offers us brief, intimate glimpses of Timberlake’s bandmates thrilling in the joy of performance; at others he puts us in the audience by capturing whole songs in single, uninterrupted, long-distance shots. You don’t have to be a fan of Justin Timberlake to enjoy this film, but you will probably be one by the time it’s over.

The Vegas backdrop is appropriate. Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids is a fitting summation, at least for now, of Demme’s obsession with artifice and authenticity, of life lived and life performed. Having premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, this phenomenally entertaining film was promptly scooped up by Netflix. We are honored to be able to present one of the only big screen exhibitions of this late-career masterpiece from Demme in the movie palace that is the Tennessee Theatre.

Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids screened as part of our 11-film Jonathan Demme retrospective, Life is Performance / Performance is Life, at Big Ears.