The Clark Sisters: The First Ladies of Gospel (2020 Lifetime)
Cast: Aunjanue Ellis, Raven Goodwin, Ronnie Rowe
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Synopsis (via Lifetime)
From executive producers and Grammy Award winners Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, and Missy Elliott. The authorized musical of incomparable gospel singers, The Clark Sisters, recounts the story of the highest-selling female gospel group in history and their trailblazing mother, Mattie Moss Clark (Aunjanue Ellis). Credited with bringing Gospel music to the mainstream, the five Clark sisters (Christina Bell as “Twinkie,” Kierra Sheard as “Karen,” Sheléa Frazier as “Dorinda,” Raven Goodwin as “Denise,” Angela Birchett as “Jacky”) overcame humble beginnings in Detroit, enduring abuse, loss, rejection, betrayal, and sibling rivalries to achieve international fame as icons of the Gospel music industry.
The movie starts with, wait for it, Gospel singing. The five Clark sisters stand in a circle and sing. It is the best singing in a Lifetime movie since, Mistletones… wait, that was ABC Family.
Cut to a mother, Mattie Moss, waking up her children in the middle of the night to plunk out harmonies. Mattie is a musical director for a chorus and accepts nothing but excellence from her daughters.
Flash forward to 1973, the practicing pays off, and the sisters a killing their harmonies in church ad their mother watches over them. The sisters sing all the time, even when they are eating wings. Jackie is the oldest sister, Denise is the sexually active one, Twinky seems like the favorite because she plays piano, and the other two sisters (Karen and Dorinda) are not singled out yet. Mattie Moss wants her babies to be better than the Jackson Five and is pretty intense. (She wilds out on a chorus girl who chews gum in rehearsal.)
Mattie Moss is in control of her daughter’s singing. Behind the scenes, her pastor husband is abusive, verbally, and physically. He backhands Jackie and kicks her out of his house. The family riff doesn’t stop them from making music or Mattie Moss micromanaging her daughters every move. They record in the studio. They sound pretty good to me!
The Clark sisters start touring, and KAREN finally gets some personality, she is shy but has the best solo voice. She nails her solo about Jesus, and everyone is impressed. A lot more competent singing of full songs happens. Backstage, Mattie Moss is haggling with the producer for more money. He shorted her, and she tells him off.
Mattie Moss isn’t only freaking out on producers; She smacks Denise across the face when she comes home late from a night out. Denise’s panties were hotter than the devil! The next morning Mattie Moss sets her daughter straight and tells her that she has God singing through her and needs to start acting like it.
Dorinda gets engaged, but still is rehearsing with her sisters for five hours at a time. Mattie Moss is still treating them like children and gets upset with them. She realizes she needs to let go and agrees to manage the business side of things leaving Twinky to lead the artistic side of things.
Karen gets approached by a producer to go solo; she doesn’t go the Diana Ross route. The producer does get Twinky to sell the rights to her music catalog. Mattie Moss isn’t having any of it. She screams and reiterates that THIS is why she should handle the business. Twinky is devastated by the mistake she made. Denise ones up her sister by getting pregnant out of wedlock. Karen is getting married, and Twinkt is writing new songs with a little more Stevie Wonder funk on them. (Mattie Moss is not that into it.) The radio stations are, and it becomes a hit.
The Clark sisters start wearing furs and selling out shows all over the USA! They even get nominated for a Grammy.
Cut to The Grammy performance; we should keep this good singing rolling. The plot matters very little in this movie. Mattie Moss joins her daughters on stage and gets kicked out of position with the church and is banned from performing with her daughters ever again.
Denise is still the back sheep of the family and refuses to sign her new contract. Her sister pretty much tells her that she is hard to love. Twinky is the next to leave the group so she can get married and run off with her new husband. Twinky’s mother tells her she has “shot a bullet through this family.” Twinky stands up to her mother and tells her she needs to find herself without her mother. Twinky’s husband has to pry Mattie Moss’s hands off her daughter to get her out of the house. It is very dramatic.
1994, the three remaining Clark sisters are recording in the studio, and it isn’t going well. Mattie Moss is alone and missing her daughters and refusing to take her medication. Meanwhile, Twinky and her husband are not getting along; he is pretty much using her for her name. It was it this point I realized that this movie was another half hour, and my brain fell out.
Mattie Moss is in the hospital due to a foot injury. She hasn’t been taking good care of herself. She isn’t worried about being in the hospital; she is too busy making her daughters sing for the doctors. (LOL.) RIP! Dr. Mattie Moss dies in the hospital, and we get a funeral montage inner cut with happier memories. Denise shows up with her SEVEN kids and then goes wild for the eulogy. She is rushed off stage by the other sisters. They get in a HUGE right outside of the church. Denise is pissed that her sisters have turned their backs on her.
Twinky has a nervous breakdown after her mother’s death and divorce from her lame husband. She gets admitted into the hospital. Dorinda has a George Bailey moment on a bridge and almost jumps off but is stopped by Jesus. Karen gets some gastric bypass and ends up in a coma.
2008, Karen writes a new song and asks Twinky to join Jacky, Dorinda, and definitely NOT Denise. Twinky agrees and goes on tour with The Clark Sisters. She prays to her mother to help her and remembers encouraging words from her mother. They sing “Blessed and Highly Favored” in full. Then it cuts to three of the real Clark Sisters signing as we get the following Kyron.
“ Karen Clark Sheard oversees a Powerful Woman’s Ministry and performs both as a solo artist and with her sisters.”
“Jacky Clark Chisholm is a nurse and author who continues to perform with her sisters.”
“Dorinda Clark Cole, Elect Lady of the Churches of God in Christ, preaches and sings the gospel around the world.:
“Twinkie Clark Terrell, “ The Queen of the Hammond B-3 Organ.” has composed more than 250 songs and inspires a new generation of musicians.”
“Denise Clark Bradford is a devoted mother, pastor, and doctoral candidate.”
Minority Report: The whole cast is POC.
One of the better biopics from Lifetime. (Need we mention Aaliyah or the Whitney Huston movie?)
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*Photo Credit: © 2020 Lifetime