Writer & Director
(THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, MARLEY, STATE OF PLAY)
Scottish-born, Oscar-winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald has interchangeably worked as director on several feature films and documentaries throughout his career, with one of his last cinematic releases being an in-depth look at the life of Bob Marley. Now, he turns his attention to the late and great Whitney Houston. Using never-before-seen archival footage and interviews with several members of her family, closest acquaintances and business associates, WHITNEY observes the singer’s early years, illustrates her rise to stardom, and delves heavily into the details of her personal life, including her relationship with Bobby Brown (who is also interviewed) and the infamous drug problem. This documentary feature also incorporates exclusive demo recordings, audio archives and rare performance footage that enables viewers to get to know the real Whitney Houston (“Nippy”) and truly understand all of the potential contributors that led to the tragic truncation of her life at the age 48.
Last year, I reviewed, and you may have seen another feature documentary about the life, career and tragic loss of “The Voice”, titled WHITNEY: CAN I BE ME. Viewing both will result in some repetition, however there is no disputing the fact that Kevin Macdonald‘s film is prepared to probe into darker territory and ask the confronting questions that WHITNEY: CAN I BE ME left on the cutting room floor. As such, WHITNEY is often more compelling to watch and reveals some very controversial allegations.
Her life is presented in chronological order throughout this two-hour documentary, which becomes an important part of its presentation as the various sources of insight and information being given are rather cluttered. Many individual interviewees understandably have a lot to offload, so sometimes the context of their discourses isn’t always clear. What is always made clear, however, is the damage that’s been done by the various people in her life and the film & music industry, especially by those whom she trusted and depended on the most. Her own father, for instance, suing her for what he believes is his fair share of Whitney’s success, attempting to milk money from his own daughter as though she were a cow with an endless supply of milk. You need only to hear a few sentences stated by ex-husband Bobby Brown to grasp the intensity of his jealousy towards his successful and popular wife, which he dealt with by retaliating. Even just a snippet of a horribly insensitive episode of animated TV series “Family Guy” that makes a joke of Whitney’s sadly decaying state (yes, it was insensitive even before she passed away) proves itself to be just another piece of ammunition that eventually shot her down.
What haunts the most is a recurring dream Whitney has had since her childhood. A dream that involves her running from the demons that are chasing. Demons that she could no longer hide from or outrun in the end.
3 ½ stars