On October 21st, VH1 finally premiered the highly publicized and anticipated TLC biopic “CrazySexyCool: A TLC Story.” Being one of the biggest fans of the group there is, I was SO excited to hear about it. I know just about everything there is to know about each TLC member and their personal struggles, so the idea of seeing it play out in cinematic format had me on the edge of my seat…at least initially.
There was much promise upon the beginning of the film, leading right before Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes got discovered, signed and moved through the process of finding a new member (which ended up being Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas; more on that in a moment) and recording their 1st album. The 150 minute (including commercials) movie was great for those who didn’t know TLC’s back story and it gave a little insight on the climate of the music industry at that time. The performances from lead actresses Drew Sidora (T-Boz), Lil’ Mama (Left-Eye) and Keke Palmer (Chilli) were surprisingly good (with Lil’ Mama shining through as the best actress of the film), in addition to Rochelle Aytes, who portrayed the group’s 1st manager, Perri “Pebbles” Reid.
The movie was a great summary of the ladies’ perils and triumphs as one the best-selling female groups of all time, however, my qualm as a fan was the fact it was just that—a summary. Its brevity of their most successful album eras (i.e. “Crazy.Sexy.Cool” and “FanMail”) and over-magnification of somewhat interesting, yet trivial conflicts made the movie come off as a dramatized, cliff-notes version of “Behind the Music” (TLC’s “Behind the Music” debatably did more in 1 hour than this film did in 2 and 1/2 ). It ultimately left certain facts seem more elusive and not clarified, than express the whole truth for what it was.
Firstly, the movie was extremely biased. In Left-Eye’s absence, T-Boz and Chilli were the ones who constructed and pitched the TLC story to VH1 script-writers, and that, ironically, was probably more of a minus than a plus because aspects of their background were told from a limited perspective and presented as truth without further explanation. For example, the firing of Crystal Jones (the original “C” in TLC) was attributed in the film to her inability to sing/perform in front of L.A. Reid and Pebbles during an audition. However, according to Jones, the reality was since she was the original lead of the group (she called auditions to form a group to begin with), Pebbles privately presented her with the contract first and when Jones insisted on showing the contract to her mother for further review, Pebbles later encouraged T-Boz and Left-Eye to oust her. To put it in perspective, if Jones was such a poor performer, how did she get the chance to exclusively audition for her own group before introducing the group to Arista Records/Pebbletone? How did the group record demos under the name of 2nd Nature with producers like Jermaine Dupri if she was so terrible? Maybe T-Boz got the impression that Jones’ singing was to blame because that’s what she was told or maybe there was an instance where Jones bombed a performance. Jones’ story wasn’t the only one that fell prey to the limited perspective.