Spanning across the forty-eight years of her life, this film introduces us to Whitney Houston’s humble beginnings in New Jersey from talented gospel singer, spurred on by the sometimes stifling support of her parents, to singing the roof off the Super Bowl. Naomi Ackie, playing Houston, possessed almost as much magnetism and glamour as the singer herself, as well as having a beautiful voice. However, don’t panic! The directors have implicated as much of the real deal as possible with Houston’s voice doing most of the singing; and with Ackie filling in the gaps, Whitney Elizabeth Houston is almost brought back to life.
It was easy to connect with the sassy, headstrong, nineteen-year-old delighting audiences in a local church. But although I felt her joy at at each step closer to her dream of becoming a singer, there was an inward sense of loss as each scene brought her further and further away from the innocent tomboy we first fall in love with. Anonymity is stripped from her as she starts topping charts and winning Grammys but this seems to come at a price. The movie speculates at an alleged lesbian romance with childhood best friend Robyn Crawford that was sacrificed to maintain her popularity, as well as being pressured by her parents to date men and swap comfortable tracksuits for dresses. From then on, things start to snowball and success becomes a bitter enemy when she gets tangled up with drugs and the troublesome Bobby Brown, suffering miscarriage, rehab, and potential abuse as she hurtles towards her inevitable fate.
For those who were born after the Houston era, and even those who followed her at the time, this is the perfect opportunity to feel more in touch with the idolised ‘pop princess’ of America. Intimate scenes reimagined from rumours and press help us see past her confident and dazzling front to someone more vulnerable, relatable and simply human. Nevertheless, marvelling at this young woman with the world at her feet, it is impossible to imagine how someone so vivacious and full of life could suffer such a tragic fate, despite the heart-warming love shown by her mother, mentor and best friend.
Aside from the underlying sadness and narrow political ideology hovering at its peripherals, this film is more of a celebration of her life with many deliciously euphoric scenes. In fact, throughout the film you are never far away from an upbeat, iconic chart-topper. The powerful climax of every featured song is complemented by equally powerful and exhilarating scenes full of raw, human elation. To the extent where I felt as if I too were being propelled through her life of jubilation, heartbreak, love and self-destruction. By the end of it, I really did wanna dance with somebody.
Though classy and full of glamour, this gorgeously enjoyable film opens your eyes to the tumult and turmoil that is fame, whilst telling the groundbreaking story of one talented, young girl from New Jersey.