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Whitney Review

"We will always love you"
Whitney Houston was a true superstar back in the '80s and '90s, recording hit singles and albums, was beautiful and ventured beyond music, but had a life blighted by abuse and addiction. Whitney looks at the entirety of Whitney Houston's life, from her childhood in Newark, New Jersey, her rise to fame and downfall due to drugs with a particular focus on her relationships with her family and men. Whitney bears a striking similarity to the 2015 documentary Amy - both focused on highly talented singers who found fame but succumbed to drug addiction. Amy Winehouse was influenced by jazz whilst Whitney Houston grew up singing in gospel choirs. Their lives had similar ends where they seemed to be on the road to recovery but end up having to perform when they weren't ready and end up dying. Whitney even mirrored Amy when showing how Whitney's drug addiction became a source of ridicule. Both Amy and Whitney have a similar thesis: your family fucks you up. In Whitney's case she had a pushy mother, Cissy, who was a backup singer for numerous singers and her helicopter parenting led the mother/daughter relationship to become fractious, especially after the breakup of the Houston marriage. And her father, John Russell Houston Jr. was a man who took advance of his daughter and her fame, enjoying the power it brought him. He acted like a mob boss, getting people to kiss his big gold ring and hires his family members just because he can. Whitney did not want to be like her mother so raised her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, differently. Whitney's mother was away on tour, leaving the family, so Whitney took Kristina on the road to stay close to her daughter, but that approach had its own negative effects. The film also looked at Whitney's relationships beyond Bobby Brown. She was a popular figure with the tabloid press regarding her relationships with other celebrities like Eddie Murphy and as one of her friends told the documentary 'Whitney liked sex'. The documentary looks at Whitney's friendship and a possible romantic relationship with her PA Robyn Crawford - one of the few people to look out for Whitney. However, despite being a big part of the documentary Crawford clearly didn't want to be involved and wasn't interviewed. The biggest revelation in the documentary was there was a sexual abuser in the Houston family. Whether Whitney was abused is speculation although other family members were abused and this part of the documentary was given the most press attention. The other tragic aspect which Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse share was their choices in men. Winehouse picked men who were bad influences and they got hooked on drugs together. Houston had an infamous relationship with Bobby Brown which was tabloid fodder. The relationship was abusive - Brown hated being in Houston's shadow and Houston was desperate to appease him. Houston's friends asked why was she still with Brown - but anyone who knows anything about domestic abuse knows it's a psychologically complicated issue. Whitney's biggest difference to Amy was the added element of race. The documentary gave the context of the racial tensions in Newark in the '60s and that Houston’s family was aspiring to become middle-class. Whitney was always having to prove herself: she was called 'the little white girl' when she was young because of the way her mother dressed her and when she became famous Al Sharpton called her 'Whitey Houston'. One of the big parts of the documentary was when Whitney sang the national anthem at the Superbowl which made her a uniting figure. When the documentary interviewed Kevin Costner about The Bodyguard he stated he just saw Whitney as a beautiful woman and didn't see the significances of their onscreen kiss. It gave the documentary a slightly different perspective. The documentary interviews a number of people from Whitney's life like her brothers, friends and family friends. Quite a few of them had their own agenda and points-of-view which led to contradictory answers. Some people came off better than others and Bobby Brown was unapologetic. Whitney is a tragic look at the personal life of a talented singer.  It doesn't quite match Amy's depth but it still makes an interesting companion piece and the documentary does look at Whitney's highs as well as her lows.
  • Interviewees giving differing accounts
  • Similarities to Amy
  • The look into Whitney's familial relations
  • Showing what America was like in the various periods
  • Lacked the nuanced look at the media portrayals of Whitney


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