After Bohemian Rhapsody’s success, there has been a string of movies being made on the most popular music icons; there was “Rocket Man” about Elton John and “Elvis” about Elvis Presley, though there was also “Walk the Line” about Johnny Cash back in 2005. Adding to the list is the movie on Whitney Houston, the celebrated pop icon of the 1980s who was considered “the voice” of that generation. “Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” directed by Kasi Lemmons, chronicles the rise and fall of Whitney coupled with plenty of iconic live performances by her at various points in her life. Whitney Houston has seen and done it all. But apart from all of this, what is her story?
Whitney: From A Church Choir To The Most Popular Voice
The movie begins with a shot of the 1994 American Music Awards, where Whitney Houston is set to perform a medley, something she has not attempted before on stage. Whitney is confident and nervous at the same time, but she goes for it nonetheless. The story takes us back to 1983, when Whitney, along with her mother, Cissy Houston, a popular singer herself, was a part of the church choir headlined by Whitney herself. Cissy is a strict mother who makes sure Whitney uses her vocal ability to the maximum. Whitney confides in her mother that she wants to pursue singing for a living, and her mother starts providing her with the training and the push she requires. She is stern and demanding when it needs to be, and Whitney, though she finds her mother overbearing at times, knows her mother knows best about singing as a profession. Cissy herself was a popular singer who won the Grammys, so Whitney has a mother who is a known personality in the vocal field, and to be able to match up to that is something she does not find impossible but tough to crack. Whitney sings as a backup singer for her mother at her local bar performances, and she invites Robyn Crawford, a woman she just met, and they soon become fast friends. Robyn is taken aback by Whitney’s family background, but she is intrigued to meet all of them. Whitney, though she comes from a background where she is surrounded by people who probably sing better than her, is not enamored by it, but she does want to do something different than what her mother and aunts have done.
But her family is far from perfect. Her mother and her father, John Houston, are constantly at loggerheads about taking responsibility at home. Her mother always toured, and her father had to end up looking after Whitney and her siblings. Whitney is tired of seeing the rut that her parents have reached, and she seeks comfort in Robyn, and slowly they go from being best friends to lovers. Robyn is the partner Whitney was looking for—someone who understands her inside and out and is always there for her. Robyn and Whitney move in together to her mother and father’s disappointment, but moving in with Robyn is the best decision she could make because it helps her concentrate on her singing rather than being worried about her constantly arguing parents. Whitney is given a chance to perform at the same local bar where her mother sings; unaware to her, Cissy had arranged for a record label executive to come by and listen to her daughter sing. Since Whitney is unaware of the presence of Clive Davis, the president of Arista Records, Whitney sings her heart out, which impresses Clive. He comments that she is probably the best singer he has heard in a long time. Whitney’s ability to shine at a crucial moment impresses her mother and her father, and they realize she is an icon in the making, and nothing can stop her from becoming popular. Whitney is also proud of herself for being able to sing in place of her mother at short notice. She never knew she had it in her. Whitney is soon signed by Arista Records, and Clive Davis becomes her mentor and guides her on the right path from here on since she is a rookie in this industry. Whitney, though, did not expect to get this sort of recognition and validation from a man of this stature, but she is taking it as it comes and is willing to learn the art of being in business, sustaining it, and staying relevant.
Ending Explained: Is Whitney Able To Recover From Her Drug Addiction And Perform Live?
As Whitney is carving out a successful path for herself, she is surrounded by a barrage of people who would love to jump on her success bandwagon. She makes sure to have only the people closest to her take care of her business. Whitney is showcased to the world through a daily night show, where she impresses the whole audience, and there is no looking back for her from here on. Whitney went on to sing and release plenty of singles that became instant hits. It is not just the songs that become popular; it is the voice Whitney possesses that enthralls the listeners and the audience the most. Whitney does not let the popularity get to her head from the beginning, which showcases her humble beginnings. Whitney stars in her first song when she and Robyn aren’t happy with the options of fittings given to her. From then on, Robyn and Whitney decided it would be Robyn who would be Whitney’s creative assistant from now on. With her schedules, appearances, costumes for songs, and makeup Whitney is more than happy to let her best friend and lover in because Robyn is the only person she trusts and someone who will not take advantage of her. Her father disagrees with keeping Robyn around, for he is more worried about her image. This is about an era when people from the LGBTQ community were not accepted, and celebrities always shied away from speaking about their sexuality. Whitney coming out as gay would be a big blow to her image, as stated by her father, and he requests that she date men and not Robyn. This is the only criterion that both parties agree to. In the wake of the news that Robyn comes across that Whitney and Jermaine Jackson had a brief affair, Robyn stops pursuing her, and they promise to be each other’s best friends from now on. Whitney is lucky enough to find a good friend in her ex-partner. Meanwhile, her father begins the company Nippy Inc. and starts minting money off her money.
Whitney thought she was put in a tough spot multiple times. She is asked questions about her race and the fact that her music caters to the white population and never to the people of her community, to which she responds that her music is music that she does not discriminate against on any level. She has been given a godly gift to sing her heart out, which is for everyone to listen to and enjoy. Her music is for everyone to cherish and enjoy; there need not be any talk about her race when it comes to her singing. Whitney is livid to know there are people in her community who think of her as an enemy and as someone who does not respect her heritage. Robyn and her father ask her to focus on her music rather than let these people get to her, which would affect her music. Whitney is attracted to Bobby Brown, an artist she saw performing at an awards show. Though Whitney does not win the award she was nominated for, Bobby Brown gives her the motivation to go on and not get carried away by the emotions caused by her defeat. Whitney and Bobby Brown soon start dating, and after a while, they are engaged to be married. Bobby and Whitney move to a palatial home. Whitney’s success is skyrocketing, and she keeps on delivering hits back-to-back. Whitney, so far, is content with her life. She can showcase her talent time after time, and she is happy to see her popularity finally being acknowledged. In the meanwhile, she is offered a role to play opposite Kevin Costner in the famous film “The Bodyguard.” The shoot goes fine, but Whitney has her first miscarriage during the shoot, and soon after the shoot, she gets married to Bobby Brown. Whitney is also asked to perform the national anthem at the Super Bowl. She is beyond excited to be given this honor, and her performance ever since has been considered one of the most iconic moments in the history of the Super Bowl. They live a blissful life and are blessed with a girl child soon. Soon there is talk of Whitney indulging in movies more than churning out songs. Whitney has released more singles than an entire album. She also has troubled ties with her husband, whom she caught cheating on her. She asks him to leave her and their daughter alone. Whitney soon learns of the amount of money her father has been using for his benefit. To recover all the money, her father makes a deal with Arista Records for Whitney to conduct a world tour, which Clive is strictly against. He wants Whitney to focus on her voice and churn out an album. Whitney has no option but to head out on a world tour, which turns out to be a disaster. Whitney is fatigued, and her voice is not as strong as before, which leads to many concerts ending up being shockingly bad. Her husband joins the tour only to make it worse for her because she is not allowed to give her voice, mind, and body some rest, and Bobby keeps pushing her to perform continually. She is made aware of her father’s hospitalization. Whitney is forced to choose between her best friend and husband, but she does not want to because she needs both of them at a time when she is mentally and physically spiraling, which is affecting her performance on stage. Whitney had been reaching a point of burnout when she receives the news of her father being ill. This news helped her regain all the strength she had lost, which helped her bring her company back to some sort of stability.
At the hospital, she reveals that she will be taking over her business, and that she will be helped by Robyn from now on. Her father is rattled by this piece of news and threatens to sue her. She politely asks him to take a rest and recover, and the rest can be discussed once he is better. Whitney, for one, is happy to take over the company from her father’s hands because he was doing all this while running a one-man show using Whitney’s name. His hospitalization allowed her to take control of it. But unfortunately, her father passes away, and Whitney spirals into addiction and smoking, for which she is sent to court-mandated rehab. She slowly starts recovering and starts spending more time with her daughter. Whitney finally separates from her husband when she is invited to an event celebrating Clive Davis in 2012, the man who is responsible for making Whitney Houston the icon. The whole evening, Whitney is nervous about how to perform live, and she ends up relapsing by asking her dealer to get her some narcotic substances. Performing live has been her pet peeve for a while. Whitney is encouraged by a bartender at the hotel to be herself, and he says her medley performance at the 1994 American Music Awards was his favorite performance, and according to him, no one has topped that. Whitney is thankful to him for reminding her of that performance, which made her an idol. She can’t stop thinking about the life she led up until then; and what led to her spiraling even after regular stints with rehab. Whitney ends up taking the substances she has asked for, and she remembers the last memorable performance she gave, which was 18 years ago. Whitney was a successful woman herself; all she wanted was to lead a healthy and happy life with her daughter. She wanted to have a happy family, for she was always surrounded by parents who constantly fought, and there was no room for love. But destiny had other plans for Whitney, and sadly, she passed away in 2012.
“Whitney Houston: I Want to Dance with Somebody” seems more like a tasteless version of the glamourous yet controversial life Whitney Houston has lived. She was an icon, had charisma, and was someone many women looked up to; her achievements required depth, emotion, and layers of conflict, which I am sure a person of that caliber went through to reach the pinnacle of success she had managed to conquest. The screenplay written by Anthony McCarten feels short on all of the mentioned above, and the narrative felt like it was jumping from one event to another that took place in Whitney’s life. The movie began with certain emotions, such as Whitney feeling trapped because of her overbearing mother and wanting to move away from that kind of training, but soon there was no layering and no formation of a complex. Her struggle with drugs and rehab was wrapped up quickly, and her complicated relationship with her father was not explored in depth. The only endearing part about the film is the direction by Kasi Lemmons, as the director has placed the songs in the right moments, which elevates the movie viewing experience for that short period in the entire running time of the film. kind of like what happened in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Her songs are recreated perfectly for the film, but the rest of the film is just bland. We know there is more to Whitney Houston’s life than this film has captured. A letdown.