Note: These are my thoughts on a film I previously reviewed back in 2018 before starting Reviews & Dunn.
Roadside Attractions & Miramax Films present the documentary Whitney from director Kevin Macdonald. The documentary chronicles the rise and fall of “The Voice” from her humble Newark, New Jersey, to a daily tabloid news story.
As Whitney opens up, the sounds of “How Will I Know” are crosscut with footage of eighties nostalgia when MTV played music videos. I respected this artistic decision, as it reminds us of the juggernaut Whitney was when her career started to gain steam. Whitney then tells Mrs. Houston’s story, and I learned tons of information that I never knew.
I was learning about Whitney’s childhood with tidbits such as her desire to be a tomboy and the relationship she had with her older brother Michael Houston. Watching Whitney, some of the revelations about her childhood answered questions that I have always wondered why Mrs. Houston was the way she was.
One of the critical revelations for me was that Whitney’s mother, Cissy, was not around when Whitney grew up. While I knew that Cissy was a well-known background singer, I never knew that she had a solo career that was not successful. I also never knew that Cissy was the one who perfected Whitney’s singing style. We also learn that both Cissy and Whitney’s dad dabbled with infidelity, which leads to Whitney becoming a child of divorce.
As the documentary moves on, we see the layers of Whitney’s life unveiled. I have always felt that Whitney Houston was a created product by Clive Davis and never allowed Whitney to be herself. However, director Kevin Macdonald makes the wise choice to show Whitney’s human side. The film has extraordinary moments with Whitney having fun backstage and Whitney calling out vocalists she did not feel could sing.
The second half of the film highlights Whitney’s decline, and while the masses want to blame Bobby Brown, I have never felt that Mr. Brown was at fault. I give credit to Houston’s brothers for mentioning that THEY were the ones who introduced Whitney to drugs. One of the film’s funniest moments for me occurs when Whitney’s brother Michael suggests that Bobby was a lightweight compared to Whitney. The film also touches on Whitney’s career eclipsing Bobby’s due to her massive success with The Bodyguard. There is a brief moment where one of Whitney’s associates mentions that Bobby Brown became known as Mr. Houston instead of having his own identity. That would make for an excellent documentary.
The final thirty minutes of Whitney are some of the most heartbreaking moments I have seen on film regarding a singer. From the jokes that numerous television shows made about Whitney to the ill-fated 2003 Diane Sawyer interview and finally hearing Whitney’s voice shot during one of her last performances. We also see numerous failed attempts at rehab and her relationship ending with her best friend, Robin Crawford.
My only compliment about Whitney is that we never hear from Robin Crawford. As I watched the documentary, we see archived footage of Crawford. However, knowing how important she was in Whitney’s life, it would have been refreshing to hear Crawford’s side of the story. I would have also loved to hear from some of the cast from 1995’s Waiting to Exhale, as I remember how iconic that film was.
Whitney Houston has been gone for six years, and for some, the pain still lingers on. Director Kevin Macdonald gives us an eye-opening documentary with Whitney by humanizing the woman known as “The Voice.” Even if you were not a fan of Whitney Houston, I highly recommend checking out Whitney
Final Grade : A