(director: Nick Broomfield/Rudi Dolezal; screenwriters: Marc Hoeferlin/writer; cinematographer: Sam Mitchell; editor: Marc Hoeferlin; music: Nick Laird-Clowes ; cast: Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown; Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Nick Broomfield/Marc Hoeferlin; Lafayette Films; 2017)

A sympathetic backstage documentary on the rise and fall of renown African-American singer Whitney Houston.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

British filmmaker Nick Broomfield (“Tales of the Grim Sleeper”/”Kurt & Courtney”) helms a sympathetic backstage documentary on the rise and fall of renown African-American singer Whitney Houston. It expands on her tabloid treatment after her death. The singer died in 2012 in her bathtub in LA, at the age of 48, from a drug overdose. The filmmaker wants us to believe she really died from a broken-heart. The film charts her humble beginnings in Newark, NJ, singing as a child in her Baptist church. By age 15 she was a professional singer, singing background vocals for Chaka Khan, Lou Rawls, and Jermaine Jackson. In 1983 Whitney signed a worldwide recording contract with Clive Davis’s Arista Records, and was on her way to stardom and tragedy. Cameraman Rudi Dolezal was given unlimited access to Houston, her family and entourage on a 1999 European tour. Things did not end well on the tour because of the singer’s failing health, drug use, an increasing drinking problem, the manifestation of her insecurities and her black peers calling her out for being too white. The likable superstar, with the golden voice, is shown as a vulnerable woman exploited by almost everyone. She comes across as a tragic figure because her stardom (she broke The Beatles’ record for consecutive US Number Ones) was so short-lived. The film relies on previous unseen archive footage, interviews from family, friends and other musicians, some TV interviews with Whitney, and live performance recordings. It’s a well-done conventional documentary that is frank and fair. It tells us enough about her without telling all to make it at least a relevant biopic.

Whitney: Can I Be Me Poster

REVIEWED ON 8/2/2018 GRADE: B   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/