There's a truism that the artists who make for the best interview subjects are often at the beginning or the end of their careers. The thinking is that the rising stars have a vulnerability, an eagerness to tell their story, and a lack of cynicism about the larger entertainment journalism apparatus that makes them fun to talk to; on the other end of the spectrum, the older stars have nothing to lose, more wisdom to impart, and a willingness to reveal their true self. Quincy Jones, the subject of both a recent GQ profile and a widely shared interview with Vulture, is the epitome of the latter, a music industry legend who has seen it all and isn't afraid to share what he's learned. Like, say, an anecdote about Marlon Brando having sex with Richard Pryor.
These two recent interviews were so controversial, aggregated by content-hungry websites and screen-shotted by readers on social media obsessed with tossed-off quotes like "you like Brazilian music?" and "he’d fuck a mailbox," that they actually led to a follow-up statement from the 85-year-old producer and composer where he apologized for his "wordvomit" and attempted to put out some fires with the people he offended. The note, which lacked the free-wheeling candor of his interviews, said that his six daughters had staged a "family intervention" to address "some silly things" he'd said. Even for an aging public figure, there's still an image to maintain.
The biographical documentary Quincy, which debuted on Netflix September 24, was co-directed by one of those intervening daughters, Parks and Recreation actress Rashida Jones, and is pitched somewhere between the joyful frankness of the Vulture interview and the PR-friendly tone of the apology statement. Like many recent nonfiction films made by family members of significant figures -- Netflix's recent Joan Didion portrait, which was directed by her nephew Griffin Dunne, or the recent HBO doc about Nora Ephron, which was directed by her son Jacob Bernstein -- Quincy offers access and intimacy, but occasionally skimps on psychological nuance or insight into the work itself.