Whitney Houston : I Wanna Dance With Somebody

Whitney Houston : I Wanna Dance With Somebody
Original title:Whitney Houston : I Wanna Dance With Somebody
Director:Kasi Lemmons
Running time:146 minutes
Release date:23 december 2022
An unflinching portrait of a complex woman who was nicknamed The Voice. From her early days as a backup singer in New Jersey to her status as one of the most awarded and celebrated artists of all time, the film traces Whitney Houston's galvanizing, poignant and deeply moving journey. It's an exemplary journey punctuated by sensational concerts and the star's most iconic songs.

Mulder's Review

"Clock strikes upon the hour
And the sun begins to fade
Still enough time to figure out
How to chase my blues away
I've done alright up to now
It's the light of day that shows me how
And when the night falls, loneliness calls " 
Whitney Houston : I Wanna Dance With Somebody

After the fashion of superhero adaptations in the cinema, that of music biopics seems to follow the same trajectory with great successes in the past like La Bamba (1987), 8 mile (2002), Ray (2004), Get On Up (2014), Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), Rocketman (2019) and this year Elvis (2022) and Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2022) (a biopic that mixes the real and the fictional). So no less than three biopics released this year and are already announced biopics on Michael Jackson, Prince and Michael Jackson and no doubt others will continue to come out regularly as the public seems to be fond of discovering the hidden face of their idols on the big screen.

 However, where the biopic on Elvis this year was an undeniable success and made Austin Butler an instant world star, the biopic on Whitney Houston constantly disappoints and seems to follow the path already traced by other films than trying to propose a different approach and especially to show why Whitney Houston was a world star whose songs still know the same craze. Although the screenwriter Anthony McCarten was able to propose a perfectly balanced scenario for Bohemain Rhapsody, here he seems clearly more interested in Whitney Houston's dark side (a good hour of the film is dedicated to her descent into hell in artificial paradises) than in her musical creativity.

The film attempts to deliver a true portrait of Whitney Elizabeth Houston (August 9, 1963 - February 11, 2012) who was not only a world-renowned artist with sales of over 200 million records and remains the only one to have had seven consecutive number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, but also two Emmy Awards, six Grammy Awards, 16 Billboard Music Awards and 28 Guinness World Records, as well as induction into the Grammy, Rhythm and Blues Music and Rock and Roll Hall of fame. She who was nicknamed The Voice could have had a long career if she had not met on her way the artist Bobby Brown who would not only become her husband before a stormy divorce but also and especially the one who would lead her in his wake to hard drugs. Far from showing the idyllic side of Whitney Houston's life, the script prefers to focus on the many difficulties she had to overcome and on her attempts to find her potential towards the end of her career.

The film begins with the first years of her life in which Whitney Houston was in the shadow of her mother Emily "Cissy" Houston, a famous gospel singer for whom she was her backup singer before signing with the label Arista Records through Clive Davis (Stanley Tucci). Not knowing how to play an instrument nor having the will to write her own songs, her label helped her throughout her career to make the best possible choice of songs to use her beautiful voice. Building on her success, her first two studio albums, Whitney Houston (1985) and Whitney (1987), reached #1 on the Billboard 200 and are among the best-selling albums of all time. Houston's third studio album, I'm Your Baby Tonight (1990), gave her two number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100: I'm Your Baby Tonight and All the Man That I Need. We wish the film had focused more on the creation of her many hits rather than showing a less than perfect vision of a woman who was an example to many people around the world. 

Anthony McCarten's script seems to want to list unnecessarily details of her private life, especially the relationship with her difficult father and the negative influence of her husband. Her many slip-ups on stage and in the tabloids have greatly damaged her image, even though she not only had a great voice and a real presence on stage and in the many music videos and films that made her famous. Certainly the film The Bodyguard (1992) is mentioned and notably the important help of Kevin Costner not only to make this film a powerful and memorable blockbuster (tenth most profitable film in the history of cinema) but also how he brought on one of his ideas Whitney Houston to cover the song of Dolly Parton I Will Always Love You. We would have liked the film to take more time on this important collaboration between two huge artists than to see his on-screen troubles with the bad boy Bobby Brown. 

The film could have been with a better script and a more invested director a real hit as Whitney Houston remains one of the most appreciated singers of the public all generations. The memorable interpretation of the actress Naomi Ackie is certainly the strong point of the film but it is spoiled by a direction that seems to want to put forward the many tabloids writing about this extraordinary artist. While the film Elvis is still anchored in our memories of moviegoers and benefited from the presence of a gifted director in the presence of Baz Luhrmann. 

Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody 
Directed by Kasi Lemmons
Written by Anthony McCarten
Produced by Denis O'Sullivan, Jeff Kalligheri, Anthony McCarten, Pat Houston, Clive Davis, Larry Mestel, Molly Smith, Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill, Matt Jackson, Christina Papagjika, Matthew Salloway
Starring Naomi Ackie, Stanley Tucci, Ashton Sanders, Tamara Tunie, Nafessa Williams, Clarke Peters
Cinematography : Barry Ackroyd
Edited by Daysha Broadway
Music by Whitney Houston
Production companies : TriStar Pictures, Compelling Pictures, Black Label Media, Primary Wave Entertainment, Muse of Fire Productions, West Madison Entertainment, TSG Entertainment II
Distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing
Release date : December 23, 2022
Running time 146 minutes

Seen on December 26, 2022 at Gaumont Disney Village, Room 4 seat A19

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