Whitney Review - Beautiful, Sentimental and Heartbreakingly Honest

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Whitney, from Miramax and Roadside Attractions, presents a beautiful tribute to the woman, the star, the voice that became the sound of a generation, her life, loves, and the slow decline that ended on February 11, 2012.

Directed by Kevin Macdonald, Whitney is a mix of news footage, interviews conducted with her, home videos, interviews with her family, friends, assistants, and those closest to her. Eventually the interviews swelled to more than 70 individuals.

Whitney begins with the slightly smoky, smooth unmistakable voice of the star,herself, explaining a reoccurring dream of being chased by a monster, and how in her dream she has nowhere to hide. The ominous beginning really foretells the foregone conclusion, the monster who ever or what ever it represented finally caught our girl.

The documentary moves chronologically starting with the early days in the inner city of Newark, New Jersey, the riots, sleeping on the floor so to not get caught in the crossfire of a city exploding with racial unrest.

Whitney explains life when she was growing up, was a far cry from the celebrity life she had achieved. Her parents, the singer Cissy Houston and her father, John Houston, worked extremely hard to move Whitney and her brothers out of the inner city into the suburbs of East Orange.

With home videos attesting to the early days and Whitney’s love of singing at New Hope Baptist Church, she explained the first song she sang during those days. The anchor of her gospel roots secured her for decades, until of course, the monster showed up.


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Cissy Houston talked about her daughter and the effort she put into the process, which went beyond having the ability to sing. What struck me during the time Ms. Houston was on screen was the burden she has been left to bear, the weight of which no mother should have to carry. Her pain, to me, was palpable.

On the edge of Whitney’s stardom, Cissy was singing in Jazz Clubs in Manhattan, and on one evening she feigned a sore throat and called Whitney who was nearly 18, and asked her to stand in for her. The show was more than successful, it was Whitney’s coming out as a solo artist, a life changing event.

From then on the offers began to come in with Arista led by Clive Davis finally winning the bidding war. Whitney was, from then on, his protégé and they formed a lifelong relationship that remained past her death, as he continues to control the rights, along with her family, to her amazing catalogue of work.

On this day, however, Whitney was 19, and with the guiding hand of Clive Davis and Arista records she, at 22, would explode onto the charts with seven consecutive Number 1 hits, win seven Grammy Awards and eventually sell more than 200million albums worldwide.

The documentary moves like her career, going from walking on the ground, to having everyone and everything done for you. From a slow pace to faster than one can imagine. It brings in her family, brothers, and explores the relationships with her long-time assistant, Robyn Crawford, who refused to be interviewed for this documentary

No documentary of Whitney would be complete without details of her marriage to rap/soul artist Bobby Brown. He did participate for this documentary. When it came to the tough questions he remained loyal to the memory of his former wife and refused to throw her under the bus or divulge private matters or blame her. He did, however, seem a bit in denial or possibily evasive as he is completing a project on his life with the late singer.

With her life changing, marriage, a child, her singing career also changed and soon she decided she wanted to pursue an acting career. Whitney highlights the meteoric, dramatic and impressive success of her first film, The Bodyguard with Kevin Costner. Her film career was defined in the documentary by the astounding success of this film and didn’t explore other films or interview talent from those films.

By this time, her marriage was on the rocks and the rumors of drug use were exploding. The documentary shifts at this point and doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to recoutning the decline.

The infamous Diane Sawyer interview where Whitney finally admits to drug use is used as our other less credible media outlets. The damage of life, the demands of career, the fear of falling, and the lurking shadows prove to take their toll.

Just when the world counts her out, she is asked to sing the Star Spangled Banner in 1991 at the Super Bowl. It became a defining moment for a new generation of fans who had never cared, or listened or even knew of her. She cemented her place in history, again.


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The documentary also shares shocking secrets that no one knew. Whitney was the victim of childhood sexual assault. Few knew, and she would never receive justice. The monster, a female family relative, is named and confrimed.

The journey is incredibly well documented and the demise painful to see. To see her so vibrant, with the music, was reliving moments of my own life, of singing along, with a flood of memories. Her death which is also covered is to experience the loss again.

Whitney had me smiling, singing along, laughing and ultimately crying. It is candid, honest and heartbreaking. Whitney opens July 6, 2018. See it.

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