At its most interesting, 20 Feet from Stardom's exploration feels like one looking at a musical subculture, touching on the origins of the craft in the church and the call-and-response style as a lead singer preaching to their flock. Elsewhere, Neville shows passing interests in the Civil Rights Movement and the place of strong - and more importantly, irreplaceable - African American women within it. On the other side of the coin, however, is the recognition that these exceptional talents have not received and the difficulties they faced in battling to obtain it. Chronicled in particular is Love's struggle to free herself from the grip of infamous record producer Phil Spector, who repeatedly used her voice but not he name.
When the doc reaches its third act, it naturally needs a positive climax and this is where all of the interesting, if disparate, elements are forgotten in favour of hammering home its underlying messages about nurturing talent and never giving up on your dreams. It makes for dissatisfying conclusion after an opening hour filled with promise. Luckily, the parade of incredible women, the stream of songs you won't believe they sang on, and those irresistible voices belting out keep the rhythm going through the schmaltz, even if the conductor seems to have dropped his hymn book. In the end, though, 20 Feet from Stardom has allowed these undervalued women to move twenty feet closer, and who can argue with that?