Whitney

Whitney

(2018)

An in-depth look at the life and music of Whitney Houston from documentarian Kevin MacDonald (Marley, Life in a Day). Contains new glimpses into the late performer’s past, including previously unreleased tracks and never-before-seen footage, as well as live performances throughout her career.

  • Directed by Kevin Macdonald ('The Last King of Scotland', 'State of Play', 'How I Live Now')

    • Documentary, Music
    • 120mins
    • Rating: M Mature themes and coarse language
    • UK, USA

Flicks Review

“There’s been several times the devil tried to get me, but he never gets me,” says superstar singer Whitney Houston at the start of this excellent documentary by Kevin MacDonald (Touching The Void, Marley).... More

Whether you believe or not, the push/pull between good and evil, Whitney’s prodigious gifts and toxic protectors, set the pattern for her short, storied life. The niece of Dionne and Dee-Dee Warwick, and the daughter of Cissy Houston (one of Aretha Franklin’s backing vocalists), Whitney (“Nippy” to her family) was raised in the gospel tradition.

Though outwardly wholesome, “The Cosbys of Dodd Street,” as her Aunt Bae puts it – there were dark currents underneath; not least a driven mother and duplicitous father. Still, Whitney had the chops to transcend her background, whether blasting out a seat-rattling Home on the Merv Griffith Show at 19; or a gob-smacking Star-Spangled Banner at the 1991 Superbowl (the latter earning a round of applause at the preview screening). No wonder she was frustrated by the likes of Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson – she was making “legacy music”, not “fad music”.

As the hits and hit movies pile up, MacDonald plunges us into a maelstrom of fame so monstrous only Michael Jackson could relate. It’s about this point the vultures start to circle – scumbag husband Bobby Brown; enabling family members; and a vicious, voracious media. Special mention here should go to Seth MacFarlane’s American Dad, which pokes fun at Whitney’s drug addiction, and one contributor’s apt response: “Seriously? F--K YOU.”

We know how the story closes, of course, but MacDonald tells it with verve and sensitivity, the only real omissions being Whitney’s friend and, perhaps, lover Robyn Crawford, and Bobby Brown’s long-overdue on-camera comeuppance – though the director tries his best to make him sweat.

The devil may have got her in the end, but we’ll always have that voice as consolation. “God gave me something really good,” says Whitney, without conceit. “And he didn’t give it to everybody.” Amen to that.Hide


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The Press Reviews

  • Two biographical documentaries in, and it still feels like we're in need of a Houston film that digs into her music first, and the hows and whys of its enduring power. Full Review

  • It's an often sad but always absorbing two hours, and [director Kevin] Macdonald balances the heartbreaking troughs with dazzling peaks. Full Review

  • Macdonald interviews with a keen eye and ear, probing for answers, but all of those who surrounded Whitney are implicated to some extent in her downfall. Full Review