Review: Lifetime's Angela Bassett-Directed 'Whitney' is Surprisingly Fresh
Admittedly, I was skeptical when I heard that Angela Bassett would be directing a film about Whitney Houston’s life for Lifetime. Ms. Bassett knew Whitney personally, having worked with her in "Waiting to Exhale" (1995), and her husband Courtney B. Vance, also worked with Whitney on the film "The Preacher’s Wife" (1996). Perhaps it was because of this friendship and reverence for the star that allowed Ms. Bassett to make the, surprisingly, honest, passionate, and well-done "Whitney."
Instead of a biography of Ms. Houston’s entire career and life, Ms. Bassett chose to focus on her passionate, obsessive and often tumultuous relationship with her then husband Bobby Brown. The film follows the duo from their initial meeting at the 1989 Soul Train Awards, through the end of her "The Bodyguard" tour.
Yaya DaCosta as Whitney Houston paints a portrait of a loving and beautiful woman struggling to remain present as her status as an icon swiftly overwhelms her. Whitney was clearly a woman who struggled, as many of us do, with the duality of the desires of her head and her heart. Relative newcomer Arlen Escarpeta, while in no way favoring Bobby Brown, portrays a man in love, but still very much a product of his environment, which is evidenced by his wild ways. Only twenty years old when they initially meet, Bobby wrestles with his own demons, as he faces a career stalemate, and Whitney’s continues to soar expeditiously.
As the film tells us, at the height of their fame when they are first introduced to one another, Whitney and Bobby quickly embark on a romantic and erotic relationship. The film was especially sexy, highlighting the fact that, despite their trials and tribulations, the pair was always consumed with one another. Outside pregnancies, a miscarriage, the pressures of work, as well as drug and alcohol abuse, heighten the tension between the pair, until it seemed they could no longer function together or apart. As time wore on, their love became toxic.
After shooting "The Bodyguard" (1992) and giving birth to her daughter Bobbi Kristina, Houston desperately wanted to set her public life aside for a moment, to be a wife and mother. Houston was exceedingly aware of her public perception. She was concerned all along that her involvement with Brown would bring a lot of scrutiny to her image and life choices.
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