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Film Review: ‘WHITNEY’
By Darralynn Hutson, Contributing Writer
Published July 5, 2018

WHITNEY, directed by Kevin Macdonald, a documentary on the life and tragic death of the late Whitney Houston, releasing nationwide in theaters July 6, 2018. (Courtesy of the Roadside Attractions)

It’s February 12, 2012 and the Beverly Hilton Hotel is overflowing with celebrities in town for Clive Davis’ annual Grammy party, where the late Whitney Houston is expected to make a comeback.

Instead, her assistant Mary Jones, finds Houston lifeless in her hotel room bathtub and the world is left to mourn the death of another yet masterful soul singer due to drug addiction.

Even after six years, there still remains a cloak of almost cursed secrecy that hangs over the Houston family on what truly happened to such a shining star and her daughter whose lives were cut short by uncontrolled drug use and depression.

Last week, Miramax and Roadside Attractions screened their long-awaited Whitney documentary to an audience of journalists and bloggers at Raleigh Studios in Los Angeles.  

Released nationwide in theaters July 6, 2018, Whitney, answers some questions about the infamously-successful voice of Whitney Houston, her family, her childhood and of course her addictions that took her life.

Full of truthful interviews, video memories and family recollections, Whitney shares deeper meaning into the family (her two brothers, Gary and mother, Cissy, and father, John Houston and daunting aunt, Aunt Bea and sister-in-law, Pat Houston), friends and devoted staff (Clive Davis, her hairdresser, Debra Martin Chase and Mary Jones) that surrounded her throughout her life, right up until the last few hours of her tragic death.

The gut-wrenching pain can be felt on the screen as both her aunt and assistant recall the last time they saw both Whitney and her daughter Bobbi Kristina lifeless inside of a bathtub.

Directed by Academy Award–winning director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland), who was given access to conduct these interviews – this biopic on the Houston family is as truthful and raw as any documentary before.

Gary admits to giving Whitney drugs at the age of 16. “Bobby was a lightweight when it came to drugs,” says Gary.

“We ran laps around him when it came to doing drugs. Laps man, laps.” Whitney’s death and the similar death of her only daughter Bobbi Kristina are still very sour topics to both experience and witness; some interviews were done through tears but told and remembered from the heart, both cinematically and musically, this documentary brings the waterworks just as we felt when we’d hear Whitney sing.  

From beginning to end, love and devotion resonated for this little girl from Newark, New Jersey destined to become a household name.

Encased in precious vintage video that takes the audience back to when Whitney (affectionately known by her family as “Nippy”) first sang a solo in her church choir.

Whitney’s family gave full support to share home videos, family portraits and especially legacy tips on creating a monster vocalist. 

“You have three places to sing from: heart, mind, guts,” reveals Cissy Houston (Whitney’s mother) She learned them all,” said Cissy.

The film takes you to the beginning; born into a family of vocalists including her mom and her cousins, Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick.

Like most soul singers, Whitney got her start singing solos at the New Hope Baptist Church, where her mother was a devoted Music Director.

We learn that from the very beginning, Cissy was the driving force behind training her voice to sing with such depth and feeling. Macdonald includes his own authentic voice by adding stylized images and extended clips of 1980’s Whitney and the “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” video intercut with images of police brutality and rioting in Newark.

It’s clear that the very voice that made Whitney Houston a star, also led to her untimely death. The breathtaking videos in the biopic include the preparation and then rendition of her epic 1992 “Star-Spangled Banner,” with her widely known sweat right under her bottom lip as well as the effect of her smash remake “I Will Always Love You,” had on the world.

Although such captures of her voice hold a common place in our memories, it’s the stunning revelations, and admitted secrets from the immediate circle of family that make Whitney a must see for her fans.  

Categories: Entertainment | Movies
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