The United States vs. Billie Holiday

The United States vs. Billie Holiday

The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Andra Day delivers a Golden Globe-winning performance as the great Billie Holiday in this biographical drama from Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels (Precious), depicting the artist's career as she is targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics.

The legendary Billie Holiday, one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, spent much of her career being adored by fans across the globe. Beginning in the 1940’s in New York City, the federal government targeted Holiday in a growing effort to escalate and racialize the war on drugs, ultimately aiming to stop her from singing her controversial and heart-wrenching ballad, "Strange Fruit." Written by Suzan-Lori Parks, the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, co-starring Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight) and Emmy nominee Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black).

Best Actress (Day) - Drama, Golden Globes 2021
2021Rating: MA15+, Strong themes, drug use and sex scenes131 minsUSA
DramaMusicTrue Story & Biography

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The United States vs. Billie Holiday / Reviews

The New York Times

The New York Times

What’s shocking about this movie... is how thin and wooden it is, how cautiously attached to the conventions of its genre.

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RogerEbert.com

RogerEbert.com

It wallows in cruelty, misery, and degradation without providing insight into the historical personages who are so thoughtfully depicted by its cast.

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Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair

A plodding series of episodes held together only by its central performance.

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CNN

CNN

A disjointed, oddly structured movie, which derives its high notes from Andra Day's showstopping performance...

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IndieWire

IndieWire

The whole movie smudges into an overlong blur of stuff, with Day in the middle, fighting to be heard.

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Paste

Paste

A crudely voyeuristic portrayal of the renowned jazz singer - a commanding performance by first-time actress Andra Day notwithstanding.

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Associated Press

Associated Press

(Andra Day) shines. It’s a pity the film she’s in is so messy.

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New York Post

New York Post

Here it is: Your annual average biopic boosted by a sensational leading performance.

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Chicago Sun-Times

Chicago Sun-Times

Sometimes overwrought but searing and memorably impactful...

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Salon

Salon

Day's performance is truly its own narrative. The movie surrounding it, directed by Lee Daniels, never quite meets the high bar she's setting, which is aggravating.

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Time Magazine

Time Magazine

Day captures the singer’s high and low moments, public and private, in a way that feels vital and lived-in.

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Vulture

Vulture

Surprisingly inert and forgettable...

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Little White Lies

Little White Lies

Sorely lacks for nuance and a clear focus.

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Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone

“Billie Holiday,” a brutally thin sketch of the woman, is all the movie is prepared to give us.

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Seattle Times

Seattle Times

The United States vs. Billie Holiday isn't quite worthy of the performance at its core.

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Stuff

Stuff

Daniels' film is an uneven, unsatisfying and poorly assembled lump of a thing. And yet, some of its constituent parts are breathtakingly good.

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Slant Magazine

Slant Magazine

The film finds its purpose most pointedly when it zeroes in on the unambiguous relationship between Holiday and "Strange Fruit."

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Variety

Variety

This is gripping stuff, to be sure, yet the movie, volatile as it is, lacks a full dramatic center and the momentum that would flow out of it.

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USA Today

USA Today

Makes as strong a case for Holiday being a civil-rights pioneer as its stunning star does for potential Oscar glory.

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The Guardian

The Guardian

The direction and storytelling are laborious, without the panache and incorrectness of earlier Daniels movies such as Precious (2008) and The Paperboy (2012).

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Hollywood Reporter

Hollywood Reporter

Day mesmerizes even when Lee Daniels' unwieldy bio-drama careens all over the map with stylistic inconsistency and narrative dysfunction...

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Independent

Independent

A sloppy, reductive take on the singer's life.

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A.V. Club

A.V. Club

This central thesis isn't enough to sustain 130 minutes' worth of movie.

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Entertainment Weekly

Entertainment Weekly

Hers was a life that often played like a melodrama - addiction, heartbreak, shadowy government conspiracies - and so Daniels largely chooses to portray it as one, often to messy and outsized effect.

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