STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning
When world famous recording superstar Whitney Houston died from a drug overdose in February 2012, it sent the showbiz world into chaos and had everyone talking. Director Nick Broomfield examines her life leading up to her death, from her upbringing in the slums of the ghetto, where she first began experimenting with drugs, but also discovered her amazing, soulful voice, that would lead to her conquering the world with her singing, where she harmonised it singing in the choir in the local evangelical church. When she first hit the big time, she first experimented with her sexuality with assistant Robyn Crawford, before settling down with r n' b singer Bobby Brown, which sadly lead to a downward spiral of drink and drugs that ruined it all.
If there are many things Broomfield's documentary misses out on, one salient point it does raise is how unhappy Whitney apparently was with the manufactured, fuzzy commercial pop she was made to sing by her record company, designed to appeal to the mainstream white suburban America that was apparently more likely to buy the records, rather than stuff that was more grounded in her roots, with no one wanting her to become 'the female James Brown.' While these were the tunes that made her famous, it's disconcerting to know she felt so little of it behind the scenes. As if out of some weird respect for this, Broomfield brushes over most of her early back catalogue, and musically, focuses on her 1992 cover of Dolly Parton's I Will Always Love You, from the hit motion picture The Bodyguard.
Another touchy subject that has never received much attention before is her rumoured bisexuality, which is sparingly explored here in the early stages, but what's more revealing is the disdain for such things that exists among, or did exist among, the black community in America at the time, and if Whitney wasn't spurned by her fans or wider society, she would have been by those closer to her. Running under the two hour mark, it's hard not to surmise that Broomfield may have had a lot of missed opportunities, and stuff he neglects to explore or delve into that could have added more substance to the proceedings, and given it a more interesting edge.
It all feels very similar to a lot of what has already been documented about Whitney's personal/private life in TV documentaries and such, and at this late stage it's hard not to feel like you're seeing stuff you've already seen. But it's still a fairly well made and focused documentary of a cultural icon. ***