Last Saturday night, The Lifetime Network debuted it’s Angela Bassett directed biography flick ‘Whitney’ based on the life of Whitney Houston. From jump, many fans were either delighted or furious with the finished product. Even though it was not deemed as disastrous as the previous released bio pic on the late singer Aaliyah (also on Lifetime) many were quick to point out that the movie may have focused its energy more on Whitney’s famous husband, singer Bobby Brown.
The Sydney Morning Herald points out that The Daily Beast was one of many review sites that expected the biopic to flop, however, it admitted that although it was boring and not necessarily thought-provoking, “that’s not to say it can be called a bad film”. The review suggested that “it forces us to revisit, or maybe realize for the first time, how conflicted Houston was at the most successful time of her career”.
The New York Times said the telemovie cherry picked moments from Houston’s career and stiched them into a perplexing and often confusing narrative. However it did not overly criticise the film.
Whitney Houston in September 2004. She died of accidental drowning in February 2012.
American music magazine Billboard joined others in praising the performance of actress Yaya DaCosta as Houston, calling her “luminous”. It also agreed with other critics that the film concentrated almost entirely on Houston’s relationship with her husband Bobby Brown, often focusing on Brown’s side of the story more than Houston’s.
These reviews came after the film drew heavy criticism from Whitney Houston’s estate on Friday. Houston’s sister-in-law and president of her estate, Pat Houston, criticised the network’s attempt by saying, “If you watch this movie, watch it knowing that Lifetime is notorious for making bad biopics of deceased celebrities and brace yourself for the worst.”
Part of the reason for her anxiety was a similar Lifetime biopic, about the US singer Aaliyah in 2014, which was panned by critics.
With the February 11 anniversary of Houston’s death approaching, Pat Houston believes the telemovie to be a money-making exercise as opposed to a heartfelt biopic. “You should expect people will always rise to the occasion for prominence and profit … not love, respect or honour … I question the morality of the making of this because of the lack of experience knowing Whitney’s life.”
Fans reflected on Twitter that the telemovie was not nearly as bad as the family had warned.
I give Angela Bassett her props #WhitneyMovie pic.twitter.com/JwHnDp92W4 — Draya Michele (@DrayaFaces) January 18, 2015
The #WhitneyMovie was AWESOME! Congrats @ImAngelaBassett and the entire cast! @theyayadacosta you were breathtaking! I know #Whitneys proud! — Bresha Webb (@Breshawebb) January 18, 2015
Watching the #WhitneyMovie now. Loving it and also finding it hard to watch. The destruction of such talent. Well done @ImAngelaBassett! — Women On The Fence (@EricaDiamond) January 18, 2015
Gowns&beauty made her a star…not perfect…and we can’t just accept the parts we wish. She was complicated. She was human. #WhitneyMovie — Trenyce (@trenyce) January 18, 2015
Of course Angela Basset would get it correct she’s an award winning actress who hasn’t failed yet…& Wendy..we’lll #WhitneyMovie — Sail Out! (@PrettyBoy_Dreas) January 18, 2015
It’s easy to criticize… It should be just as easy to give credit where it’s due. There is some good acting in this #WhitneyMovie. — Christian Keyes (@ChristianKeyes) January 18, 2015
That just ended me, I’m a mess #whitneymovie but I couldn’t stop listening @Deborah_Cox brava — Amber Patrice Riley (@MsAmberPRiley) January 18, 2015
Director Angela Bassett previously spoke to Access Hollywood about attempts to get the family’s consent for the project.
“The reaching out had occurred before I even came on board or simultaneously and I made sure that I reached out to her dearest brother… and of course I read her mother’s book to get that perspective in that time,” she said.
One person who managed to block out the negative noise surrounding the film was actress DaCosta.
“I was completely oblivious to all of it until after the fact, so I got lucky. Like I wasn’t on social media, I wasn’t on anything. I just like shut it down,” she told Access Hollywood Live on January 6. “I’m an actor for hire.”