Rated: R for language and drug content . Reviewed by: Jim Release date: July 6, 2018 Released by: Roadside Attractions
A rise-and-fall documentary from adept Scottish director Kevin Macdonald is the best of its ilk since Asif Kapadia's Amy in a resolute, if affectionate examination of beloved music icon Whitney Houston. One that takes a different tact than what might be expected from the divided camps of a sheltered diva and tabloid queen.
Whitney provides a deeper look into an extraordinary talent who had a solid pedigree — mother Cissy Houston and aunt Dionne Warwick - signing her first recording contract at 19 and releasing her first single from her debut self-titled album at 22. After being able to gain much notice at her mother's behest before her teenage years.
Family and friends who called her 'Nippy' help provide exclusive insight into someone whose career skyrocketed in the mid 1980s and into the '90s before all the acclaim gave way to anguish. Her string of top hits included "How Will I Know," "The Greatest Love of All," "Didn't We Almost Have It Al,l, not to mention the rendition of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" (from huge-selling soundtrack "The Bodyguard" in which she acted opposite leading man Kevin Costner).
Her volatile personal life included her marriage to disgraced rhythm-and-blues hit maker Bobby Brown, divorce, drug abuse, estrangement from her father. She would go through rehab and get into reality television with Brown and their family. Finally, a comeback in the business fell far short of expectations. Perhaps a victim of circumstance and success that would leave quite an effect, in a sad, ironic twist on daughter Bobbi Kristina.
Those in her inner circle, including hires, just couldn't stop her harmful patterns which led to tragedy just prior to the 2012 Grammy Awards. What Macdonald (poignant drama in The King of Scotland, as well as amazing documentaries like Touching The Void and One Day in September) does so well is carefully handle so many issues connected to her, including abuse, race, sexuality, and trauma. It's hard not to be disturbed, yet touched by what is a persuasively gentle, empathetic portrait with clips, performances and recordings previously unseen to the general public, wisely avoiding any provocation to unchaste tastes.