Review: Whitney Houston Biography ‘I Want To Dance With Someone’

AThe true meaning of Whitney Houston, who was admired as she was throughout her life, did not fall into place until she was gone. When he was alive, we knew his extraordinary vocal range and what an exciting artist he was. We also knew she had substance abuse issues, grappling with a tumultuous marriage (with her pop star friend Bobby Brown), and was gay or bisexual, as the tabloids told us in trumpet fashion. For some reason, it was easy to get fed up with all this stuff – aren’t the personal lives of all pop superstars a mess? Wasn’t that just the price of being to them? Didn’t they in a way just want trouble? Houston seemed to be playing out a rulebook that was written long before she hit the stage. His death in 2012 after a drug-related drowning accident was sad but not particularly surprising.

As time goes on, though, it seems sadder that most of us don’t pay any closer attention to the person Houston really is or is trying to be. The fragmented framework of Houston’s life has been covered in several documentaries (including Kevin Macdonald’s Whitney and Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal Whitney: Can I Be Myself?) and a few biographies or thinly veiled fictions (the last being Andrew Dosumnu’s serious but still Beauty). But among non-doctors, at least Kasi Lemmons Whitney Houston: I Want To Dance With Someone—Starring British actress Naomi Ackie, the movie may be the closest to capturing Houston’s outpouring of contradictions and the joy that both gives and takes from her performance. The movie isn’t melodramatic or downright depressing. But even if it’s fun with no regrets, it manages to make it feel like an honest reckoning with everything we’ve been through. didn’t I want to learn about Houston at the height of its fame. It’s a film that is a summary of everything it tried to tell us and couldn’t, taking our failings into account rather than simply focusing on his.


Naomi Ackie as Whitney Houston

Courtesy of Tristar Pictures

The story begins in 1983 New Jersey, with Ackie playing the young Whitney, the star of the church gospel choir. Her vocals are disciplined – her understanding mother Cissy (Tamara Tunie), herself an outstanding gospel singer, stands nearby, listening as harsh criticism begins to form in her eyes. Despite this, Whitney’s voice is fresh and full of light, like a heartfelt promise. A little later, we see him listening to a song with headphones in a park. A girl comes in to say hello – it’s an innocent pick-me-up, just like people set things up in the days before dating apps. The girl, Robyn Crawford (Nafessa Williams), laughs when Whitney decently introduces herself as Whitney Elizabeth Houston. However, she soon fell in love with both the voice and the woman, she. The two live together, although Cissy frowns in disapproval.

Although generous, Cissy also feels that she is in competition with her daughter: at a local nightclub where Whitney often sings as a backup for her nearly-stellar mother, Cissy almost literally brings her daughter into the limelight when she sees major record manager Clive Davis (in the audience). Starring with loving perfection by Stanley Tucci.Suddenly, he’s got a record contract: Whitney’s immediately unreliable father, John (Clarke Peters), takes action, setting the stage for future looting of his daughter’s earnings. Young Whitney makes her television debut on the Merv Griffin show – her singing embraces more as if she wanted to immerse herself in the whole world at once rather than fully displaying what she’s capable of. And before you know it, she’s a superstar who runs a stadium full of people in a Spandex catsuit and a fantastic gold-embroidered toreador jacket. We saw that there were few people: an outspoken b who knew what he wanted. A young woman and a woman who gives a lot to the people around her and maybe even her audience.

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These are all standard biographical stuff. But Lemmons, who, along with screenwriter Anthony McCarten, has made great films throughout his long career. (Eve’s Bayou, Talk to Me), maybe not as many movies as we would like – it subtly pulls things together, emphasizing the important, and skipping the not-so-important ones. He turns Whitney’s quest for Brown (played by Ashton Sanders) into a comedy piece. After admiring her at the Soul Train Awards, she realizes she’s sitting right in front of him and starts hitting him on the head with the minaudiere. Finally he turned around, barely preparing for the dazzling that stood there laughing at him. Robyn witnesses all of this alongside Whitney. He and his former romantic partner have mediated a kind of platonic commitment, but they are not deceiving themselves or anyone else. Whitney’s life is like a pile of dynamite waiting for matches.

Ackie’s performance is great: there’s a girlish vulnerability in her as Whitney, but you can also see that it’s a woman who has to pull on solid railings. He bristled with anger when he voiced his criticism that some of his viewers described him as “not Black enough”. In one of the film’s most intense scenes, he runs up to his hospitalized father and hisses through his teeth that he’d better pay back the money he believes he owes him as his father gasps. ($100 million, even though it’s already drained him.) The movie’s best scenes—there are a few—are in Davis’ office, where he unpacks demo tapes one after another. The two listen together but say nothing before he does. Instead, she scanned his face, just wanting to know what he was thinking. He hears a song – “How Will I Know?” – and immediately lights up; he kindly welcomes that he’s not sure he has a hook. “I’ll give him a hook!” He says, and history proves he did.

Robin Crawford (Nafessa Williams) and Whitney Houston (Naomi Ackie) in the happier early days of their relationship (courtesy of Tristar Pictures)

Robin Crawford (Nafessa Williams) and Whitney Houston (Naomi Ackie) in the happier, early days of their relationship

Courtesy of Tristar Pictures

Is this an idealized version of the relationship between a superstar producer and his superstar? Maybe. (Davis is one of the film’s producers.) But music biographies need equal parts stardust and sawdust to work. Similarly, Lemmons treats Houston’s drug use cautiously—the Whitney movie keeps her crack apparatus in a nice little box—and her worst moments pass quickly, as often indicated by her overly messy hair.

But then, we already know the worst parts of the story – how far down do we really need to go? This also saves I want to dance with someone from the typical third act problem of most biographies: the endless depiction of the long, slow fall. Lemmons is more interested in the origin of the Houston tragedy than its expression. At one point, Whitney complains that her job is to be “everything for everyone”. The list of star-studded artists is long, but Lemmons suggests Whitney has more than her share of the burden. Her sexuality and how she defined it should have been the least of her problems, but it was still seen as everyone’s business she. In the early 1990s, I once went to hear the Gospel of the great Shirley Caesar. It was an extraordinary show, inclusive in its purest sense, and so exuberant that even an old Catholic would want to come to Jesus. But towards the end, Caesar injected the line “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” into his patter and the spell was broken. The radiant energy of the music was a call to levitate the vibration – but it’s not for everyone.

Inside I want to dance with someone, During one episode of the romantic turmoil between Whitney and Robyn—Whitney has just slept with Jermaine Jackson, and Robyn is furious—Whitney admits she wants a “real” family with a husband and children. The customs she grew up with stuck very tightly, she. “We could go to hell for that sort of thing,” he told Robyn, waving his arms at the apartment the two shared, where a fluffy cat sleeps in his bed and drinks coffee together in the morning. The Whitney Houston tragedy has many layers: it’s a classic story about show business exhaustion, about being told by people who are supposed to work for you, about turning to drugs when you need to unwind after a show or hit the gas beforehand. one. But most of all, it’s a tragedy about too many people and too much power scratching your soul. Whitney deserved better. She can blow up for a long time, she.

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