Music biopics are nothing new. From Straight Outta Compton to the upcoming Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s no longer a question of if a popular musician will get a biopic, but simply when. Whitney Houston is the latest music sensation to earn her own theatrical biopic, but it may not be what fans are expecting. The new film doesn’t even seem to be made by fans of Houston, and after watching it in full, it certainly wasn’t made for fans of the late musician. Find out just how bad it gets in our Whitney movie review.
While Whitney will be released in theaters, this is not a dramatized biopic that many will be expecting. The new film is more akin to a VH1 behind the music documentary than it is to Walk the Line or Jersey Boys. There’s plenty of archival footage provided by Whitney’s family, as well as new interviews with most of her living relatives, including ex-husband Bobby Brown. There’s a lot of information about behind the scenes drama and the lower points of Whitney’s life once the drug addiction took over. It gets so dark at times that Bobby Brown refused to talk about the latter half of Houston’s life.
What you won’t find in Whitney is her music. There’s a snippet of So Emotional here, a verse from I Wanna Dance With Somebody there, and maybe half of I Will Always Love You, but the only complete song you get throughout the entire film is the Star-Spangled Banner. Where most music biopics highlight the music above all else, letting the emotion of the songs dictate each scene, Whitney instead chooses to shine a bloody spotlight on all the drama that plagued Whitney’s personal life.
It’s certainly reasonable for a Whitney Houston biopic to feature the dark spots in her life, but to almost completely ignore the music, what most fans remember about her, completely deflates the film. You can even go as far as to say that leaving out the drug addiction and all the low points in her life would be equally disgraceful. The problem is that instead of weaving the musical high notes in and out of the dark points in the film, Whitney instead focuses almost exclusively on the drugs, sexual abuse and all the other negative points of Houston’s career, virtually ignoring the music.
The final product ends up being a depressing look at the late singer’s life. Not every movie needs to be positive to be good. Straight Outta Compton and All Eyez on Me dealt with some dark issues and still managed to highlight the tracks that cemented the careers of these musicians. Some of the family interviews in Whitney were entertaining, and everything about the film was insightful, but to say director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) missed the mark would be a severe understatement.
After leaving the screening of Whitney, the film felt more like a cash grab from the family than a film tribute to the life of a world-renowned musician. The film made it very clear that Houston wasn’t rolling in the dough at the end of her life. Whitney will undoubtedly make its money back (the budget wasn’t very high), likely giving the family a decent-sized payday. If that’s not the case, then perhaps Whitney is just a bad film, but either way, Whitney Houston fans should stick to one of the many other documentaries about the star, and skip Whitney.
Synopsis: An in-depth look at the life and music of Whitney Houston.
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Stars: Whitney Houston, Bobbi Kristina Brown, Bobby Brown
Runtime: 2 Hours