Trigger warning: if you see the movie and just experienced a recent loss, leave as soon as the credits start because the song played during the end credits is a potential trigger. Plus no end credit scene (just old photos).
Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Someone was everything I expected. I give it an A for the music alone…almost three hours of vintage Whitney music…so happy they used her tracks for the movie! No one could ever come close to covering her. And it’s a total sobfest for anyone impacted even a fraction by Whitney/her music.
But before I get into the movie, let me give a bit of backstory. Whitney Houston didn’t just leave a dent on my life: she truly was the most important modern-day singer throughout my childhood and college years. Anyone that knows me, knows I never really paid attention to music throughout the 80s and 90s. I can tell you info about musicians and know the songs I heard on the radio on the school bus, and yes I bought Bruce’s Born in the USA record and cassettes for Billy Joel…and definitely can associate songs to movie soundtracks, but don’t ask me who sang what song. Whitney was different. I never understood the hype/love for Barbara Streisand. I liked her but didn’t get the grandeur of her voice (probably because I was born after the height of her stardom) but I did understand how big Barbara was within those slightly older then myself, so as soon as Whitney came on scene, I said Whitney was my Barbara. And had no idea others also called Whitney the greatest voice of our generation. (Which is said at the end of the movie too.). There are some broadway stars that have the range/power of Whitney, but no one was ever that powerful on the pop scene. So her loss ten years ago still is as hard as the day it happened. I love music. And thus I loved Whitney.
And so, I approached this movie knowing it will be extremely difficult to watch. Before COVID, there were only two movies I full out cried at. Now I am much more vulnerable, even tearing up at Wakanda Forever, but again this movie was different. If I tear up every time I hear a Whitney song since 2012, I had no chance with this movie…which was true with eyes watering 30 seconds into the film. There was no way I could see it with my son since he would get furious with all my emotions.
There is no way they could fit her whole life even in 2 ½+ hours. The drug use, her movie career, raising Bobbi Kristina, and her relationship with Robyn are all touched upon but not nearly enough. Although the movie gives no doubt that Whitney was bisexual. Really no part of her life was delved into enough, so if you want that, watch something else. But this is a biopic of one of the most amazing singers in history, so the music carries the intent of remembering Whitney Elizabeth Houston. Naomi Ackie did a solid job portraying Whitney and her mannerisms. And as usual, Stanley Tucci is a great Clive Davis. Loved a few humorous lines like when Whitney said no to the Bodyguard and then did a 180 when Clive said Kevin Costner was playing the bodyguard. And some critics question why they used the 1994 AMA performance to open and close, but I think it was a perfect close. AND THANK GOODNESS they didn’t show the actual death… faded back to the 1994 AMAs as she sits at the bathroom sink (about to do drugs) with the bathtub faucet dripping.
And now I know why she dressed how she did for the National Anthem. And so happy they showed her comeback on Oprah but didn’t show the disaster on GMA..both of which I watched as they aired.
If you are ready to cry, knowing the ending, see the movie if you want to give tribute to Whitney. If you are not ready, avoid it. And I personally wouldn’t take our kids if we just want them to enjoy the movie they hear on the radio too – and not learn (yet) what happened to Whitney.
On a closing note, as I was leaving the theater I stopped in my tracks because I heard the lyrics “don’t cry for me, don’t shred a tear” as I was about to go out the door. I will try Whitney, but it’s hard not to.