First Hit: Although the film is strong, I didn’t learn much about Whitney and learned a fair amount about her enabling family and supporters whom she financially supported.
One doesn’t need to be a Whitney Huston fan to acknowledge her amazing voice. It is also true that not everyone who has an amazing talent also has the ability and presence to manage their life in a productive mindful way. This film shows this.
The film states that her mother (Cissy) pushed her hard, as a young girl, to learn to use her voice. Music ran throughout her family and extended family with relatives Dionne Warwick and her sister Dee Dee Warwick. At family gatherings the interviewees discussed having singalongs instead of conversations.
Religion was also a backdrop in their lives as both Cissy and Whitney sang in the church choir.
The film shares some Whitney’s early singing as well as her adult singing and when it shows one of her last concerts, where her bloated body tried to belt out “I Will Always Love You” with her tired drug addled cigarette hampered raspy voice, the sadness of her life and her lack of preparedness, for life itself, was astoundingly sad.
As the story is told, Whitney’s parents were gone a lot and that meant they, Whitney and her siblings, were not raised in an environment that allowed them to grow mindful of the workings of the world. When her brother Gary bragged about how he and Whitney could out drug use Bobby Brown, he was stating it with pride – really, he felt good about this. That both Gary and Whitney indicated they were abused by a woman at very young ages only tells part of why they were ill prepared to deal with the complexity of wealth and fame.
What the film lacked was depth and maybe this was because Whitney lacked depth. The film stated, she liked to party, she liked to sleep, she liked sex, and she liked that she was fawned over. Maybe that was the point, Whitney had a talent that she didn’t have to work at and then rode this talent into the depths of insolvency. Her lack of practiced effort to be in-charge of her talent and life was born out by how the film showed that her amazing rendition of the Star Spangle Banner at the Super Bowl was the first time she ever sang it. What made this notable was that her arranger had the music switched from 3/4 time to 4/4 time to take advantage of her voice. Although an amazing rendition and feat to sing it for first time in this way, it also showed that she didn’t work at her gift and relied on it to make her money to support her lifestyle which was loaded with hangers on who ended up bankrupting her.
Proof of this such greed by her team was when her father sued her for $100 million dollars for his part in securing a record deal. Everybody ignored her rampant and public drug use. Her father even told her she didn’t have to go into a treatment center.
Her real only friend, Robyn Crawford, with whom she had an intimate relationship with, was canned because her overbearing and measly talented husband Bobby Brown was jealous and gave Whitney an ultimatum.
What the film didn’t show, and it could have been true, that Whitney was capable of anything much more than singing. Proved out by the people she kept around to do things for her and she even farmed off parenting of her daughter Bobby Kristina.
We all know the end. It was very sad and an end to the life of a major powerful singing talent. However, as this film unfolded, seeing her life as was filmed it could have only ended this way.
All told, the film was well done. Great intersperses of Whitney singing brought some joy and reflective pauses to a film about self-destruction. The interviews were to the point and allowed for and showed the interviewees emotive pauses. When Bobby Brown was asked about drug use, he stated that this film wasn’t supposed to explore this and had nothing to do with Whitney’s life. Bobby’s objective stupidity and his harm on Whitney and their now dead daughter, reign as proof.
Kevin McDonald did a great job of splicing together interesting material about this incredibly voiced person. But who was Whitney? I’m still left with that question.
Overall: I liked the film and the opportunity to hear Whitney’s talent, but who was she?