Whitney comes around one year after 2017’s Whitney: Can I Be Me? which was a fascinating documentary about the lady, but even though I didn’t particularly care for her music, I’m always fascinated in a documentary to see what makes people in the public eye tick.
The opening with Whitney Houston singing How Will I Know? is meshed into a montage that is SO ’80s, before melding into the riots taking place in ’60s Newark, the singer’s home town. The film then takes a fairly standard run through her life from start to finish, from the beginnings of her career, through to her family and her father with whom she was often at odds, and with chat from friends and relatives, including her brother, Michael, and mother, Cissy Houston, a gospel singer, as well as archive comments from the late singer, too.
Whitney: Can I Be Me? stgrted with her 1999 tour, her most successful tour, and then went back and forth to look at her life, while, as stated, this one takes a more linear look at her life including Robyn, her girlfriend, and how she wasn’t straight or gay, but as is commented on how she might see herself today, she could be “gender-fluid”.
There’s her first taste of cocaine at 16, meeting Bobby Brown – and how Robyn deals with that, and as she became more successful, she was accused of becoming too ‘white’, plus how she was booed big-time at the Soul Train Awards, but were they saying “Booo!” or “Booo-urns!”?
Add in The Bodyguard with her cover of Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You, and briefly, the couple in Britain who took their neighbour to court because they were blaring that song out all day and night, and going to jail as a result..
You get the impression from this film that she should’ve stuck with Robyn, although we can’t wholly blame Bobby Brown for her career descent in her later years.
Whitney is another case where a celebrity has gone to hell and back, and is just starting to get themselves back on track, when… they die.
Overall, it’s worth a watch, but it’s not quite as good as last year’s film, partly because they cover some of the same ground, as they inevitably will.
The film is presented in the original 1.78:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition, so it’s a straight 16:9 image, as filmed. The box states 1.85:1, and that’s how it will have been presented in cinemas, but while the film print is perfectly spot-on, note that any degradation you will see is solely because of the fact you’re watching archive clips. Oh, and a lot of them are in original 4:3, so don’t be surprised when the aspect ratio changes.
The audio is in DTS 5.1 HD-MA, but this is mostly a dialogue piece, so you don’t expect anything major in the surround speakers.
Don’t expect a huge amount of extras, either. There’s an Audio Commentary from Kevin Macdonald with producer Simon Chinn, plus an Interview (18:26) with Radio 1’s Edith Bowman, where she gushes ridiculously at the start by saying it took her “a day to recover” after she watched the film, because of what happened to Whitney in the end… even though she would’ve known that already from the 2017 movie.
The main menu features clips from the film set to a portion of Whitney singing Home, Live on the Merv Griffin Show. There are a bog-standard 12 chapters, and subtitles are in English only. What does irritate, though, is trailers placed for other films before the main menu as if we’re still in the days of rental video.
Running time: 120 minutes
Cat no.: SPALBD159
Distributor: Altitude Film Distribution
Released: October 29th 2018
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Producers: Jonathan Chinn, Simon Chinn, Lisa Erspamer
Writer: Kevin Macdonald
Music: Adam Wiltzie
Whitney Houston (archive)
Aretha Franklin (archive)
Merv Griffin (archive)
Bobbi Kristina Brown (archive)
Dionne Warwick (archive)
Nelson Mandela (archive)
Marvin Gaye (archive)
Robyn Crawford (archive)
Kenneth ‘Babyface’ Edmonds
Debra Martin Chase
John Houston III
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.