Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cinematic Review: Lifetime's "Whitney" Movie...

"...it's not right, but it's OKAY!" Those were the imperious words sung by "The Voice" Whitney Houston. The term "mixed emotions" is often used to convey the thoughts I have in mind, but a more accurate statement would describe them as "conflicting". On paper the Lifetime movie "Whitney" was a good story, it answered and revealed some elements of Whitney's infamous life but it mainly focused on her relationship with husband Bobby Brown.  But did it serve what we as an audience was looking for? Simply, the answer is... No.  The movie should have been called "I Will Always Love You: The Whitney & Bobby Love Story" rather than being billed as a true biopic.

The movie spanned approximately 5 years of her life right around the height of her career during "The Bodyguard" era, starting from when she met Bobby at the Soul Train Awards till shortly after the mega tour to promote the music for her first leading role as Rachel Marin along with Kevin Costner in the classic "The Bodyguard". What the movie was able to accomplish was depicting the alleged drug use and attempting to answer rumors of who truly was the addict in the relationship - *spoiler alert* it was alleged that it was Whitney who introduced cocaine onto Bobby, though other interviews, including ones from her own brother already have proven she started on drugs in her early years before she was even famous or meeting Brown which was later in her life.

However what the movie failed to do was give us Whitney herself. She was known for being regal, a people's princess and being very articulate in the public eye, but Whitney was a really a homegirl from New Jersey whose behind the scenes persona was more laid back and rowdy.  We didn't get a chance to see that versatility in Yaya Dacosta's portrayal, more of a hodge podge of dramatics and inexperienced acting. We can applaud the production for their physical casting, the likenesses of Whitney, Clive Davis and Cissy Houston were uncanny but the quality of acting from many of the key players just was not there. The breakout star was indeed Arlen Escarpeta with his portrayal of Bobby Brown who was able to capture both his bad boy persona and boyish vulnerability, in addition to his raunchy on stage presence. But the real star was Deborah Cox's singing voice dubbing for Whitney throughout the movie.  Deborah is a rare talent and its a shame that her music career hasn't surpassed far beyond what she's already accomplished.  She soared through every ballad like a warm knife through chilled butter. Smooth and silky, not trying but easily exceeding as if she herself was meat to sing the reknowed songs. No one can truly emulate Whitney in due justice but she did near best renditions of all the songs -- I really wish they released them for download.

The movie was neither a hit nor a miss, it's like one of those meals you eat, it's pleasant but doesn't nessecarily satisfy your hunger. I felt like this Lifetime movie was a prelude to the REAL film, serving as an introduction to the real biography, preparing us in a sense for something grander to come. I applaud the effort of director Angela Bassett, she succeeded in attempting to execute the dream to the best of her ability but not quite the full vision. We indeed will always love Whitney, nothing will ever be good enough to capture all that she meant to people worldwide.  She wasn't just a singer or an actress or her many other titles, but she was indeed a national treasure.  We may be quick to criticize bodies of work that are supposed to be done in her honor, but for our queen of the night, she deserved the best. In life and in tragedy, we shall indeed love her better after death.

[Photo Source: http://www.mylifetime.com/movies/whitney (Used without permission but for editorial purposes only.) If you would like to view Lifetime's "Whitney" movie, please visit their official website for the online presentation and reairing schedule on the network.]

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