I didn't see Nick Broomfield's film, 'Can I Be Me?' on the same subject which was released last Summer. Majority opinion seems to be that this one is better.
Before going on I'd better state where I stand on the late Superstar. If you're not interested in my personal views on her singing and its consequences you may prefer to leap the next section to over the second line below.
I was never a fervent fan of Whitney Houston's 'in-yer-face' singing style, though never actively disliking her either. I did enormously like her monster hit single 'I Wanna Dance.....' (1987) but there's very little after that which appealed on anything like that scale - and that particular number is coloured for me anyway by its strong resonances with the heady disco days of that era. However, although her style of singing was hardly original it was super-influential and (alas!) permeates the singing of stars and wannabes right up to today.
I never watch those omnipresent 'talent' TV shows but whenever I accidentally come across one it's some kid yelling her/his head off - just like the insufferable Adele has also made her name. And on these shows whenever one of these would-be multi-millionaire superstars starts bellowing like as if to prove "Look - I've got lungs!" the judges turn to each other with open-mouthed, wide-eyed wonder, astonished that they could be in the presence of such, er, 'talent'. Balderdash, I say! And, a lot of this is due to trying to mimic the style of the subject of this blog - singing 'around' the note (as it's written on the page) with faux-sophisticated warbles up and down rather than steadily holding the note as the song demands. And btw: why do they always have to fill in the gaps of their 'singing' with all those 'whoa -whoas' and 'Yeah....BAY-BEE?!!!' I just want to shout '"Oh, just STFU!!!" If there's a single bar's silence in the song they must fill it in with these meaningless interjections as if they think if they stopped singing for a split second we'd fall asleep - which we probably would have done anyway were it not for the unholy din. I've said before and repeat it now - if one of these kids were to be asked to sing a 'classic' song exactly as it was written by, say, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Frank Loesser - or even Lloyd Webber (why not?) with absolutely no embellishments, I bet they couldn't do it. No, they need to - what they would call - 'improvise'. HAH!
I don't think for one moment that Whitney Houston was the sole originator of the manner in which she chose to sing, but I do believe that she, more than any other identifiable source, is the one who has set the template of the style which has ignobly endured for more than three decades.
If I write any more on the subject of modern-day singing I have fear for my blood pressure, so let's return to the subject matter:-
The film is basically a 'talking heads' feature with interspersed clips, some of which we've seen before but also a lot of unseen material - as well as new interviews made for this very film with family members, acquaintances, musicians, music industry bigwigs etc. The family includes mother Cissie, who tells us little that's new, it being clear that she was always highly protective of her daughter - Bobby Brown, who is anything but forthcoming and likewise clams up, especially in refusing to talk about drugs on the grounds that it had "nothing to do with the story". Yeah, right! Just like he himself, I suppose. Who seriously expected him to incriminate himself anyway? Then there are her two brothers and a half brother, all of whom are more open than the first two.
The matter of her (allegedly?) having been sexually abused as a child only comes up very late in the film and is hardly resolved by the end.
We see her ascension to superstar-dom on a worldwide scale, then her fall from grace when accused of selling out her Afro-American roots by performing 'white' music. Her recovery from that major blip, her ill-judged marriage eventually ending in divorce after the seeds of her destruction had been sown, her attempts at getting clean of drugs through rehabs, the problems between her and her growing daughter, the appalling sight of her performing while skinny as a rake with arms like twigs, she and her husband are seen off their faces on drugs and alcohol, and her belated repeated attempts to get 'clean' which came too late to prevent the catastrophic end we all remember.
At two hours long the film does stretch things a bit but it's trying to get everything in even though there are significant gaps as already mentioned - such as that of Robyn Crawford and the non-speak of Bobby Brown.
Scottish director Kevin Macdonald ('Last King of Scotland' - 2006) has created quite a compelling film. Much moreso than I was expecting. For myself, not being a fan, it held up well, so maybe Houston's genuine admirers will get even more out of this than I did......................6.5.
(IMDb............6.9 / Rotten Tomatoes.................7.6)
5 hours ago