This afternoon the hubby and I popped to the cinema to check out Whitney, the new docu-film from director Kevin Macdonald. The movie tells of the rise and fall of Whitney Houston utilising archive footage, previously unseen material and new interviews, painting a portrait of a tragic, yet exceptionally gifted individual.
Whitney is a tale of excess, of hidden secrets and of a struggle with identity. Some of this is pretty much a given, especially considering the subject of this movie, but some not so much.
Going into this movie I thought I knew a fair bit about Whitney Houston, so I was quite surprised to discover I actually knew very little. Outside of her music and the tabloid tales of her ups-and-downs with ex-husband, Bobby Brown, there was actually a lot more going on than many were privy to.
The film discusses Houston’s family life, her fame, her sexuality, the relationship she had with her daughter and so much more, all framed around snapshots of American life throughout the decades. This is a film which wants audiences to understand what was going on at every stage of Houston’s life in order to be able to contextualise it and for the most part it does this very well.
The fact that the film’s main subject is not actively involved in this picture isn’t as jarring as you might expect. The constant commentary from archive interviews fills in the gaps and makes you feel as though Houston is very much a part of this movie.
So, does the film work?
On the whole, yes it does. While it is ultimately a story that is missing its star, it is nonetheless a fascinating account.
It’s not perfect mind, the film does leave a few questions unanswered. One very important revelation that comes out towards the later half of the movie really opens up the story, yet it is never fully explored.
I also felt that the film should have included a little more information on the circumstances surrounding the death of Houston’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina. Sure, this information is freely available on the internet, but as the film took the time to talk a lot about Houston’s daughter, ultimately her death deserved more than just some on-screen text during the closing moments.
Will audiences flock to see this film during a considerably warm summer? Hmm.. probably not.
Whitney’s star power, both on stage and on screen, suggests that this sort of docu-film is worthy of a big screen release, but personally I feel it would be better served as a streaming exclusive. With all the other movies out at the moment, along with sporting events and of course, the sunshine, this film will probably play to mostly empty theatres, which is a shame.
Either way, there’s no doubt that this is a must-watch account, regardless of how or when you watch it. It will also make you realise just how special Whitney Houston was. Although, you probably knew this already.