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AV Brew: I Wanna Dance with Somebody

Whitney Houston's biopic just misses the note.

When I saw the trailer for I Wanna Dance with Somebody in November, I said “Can one 2-hour film adequately tell the story of this amazing artist with a complicated private life? I’m skeptical, both sides of this woman’s life deserve their film.” This film was made with the cooperation of her family and friends, and it can be assumed that the script is accurate.

Directed by Kasi Lemmons with a script by Anthony McCarten, I Wanna Dance with Somebody is a jukebox biopic of Whitney Houston. The film stars Naomi Ackie as Whitney Houston with Stanley Tucci as Clive Davis. They were able to secure the rights to Houston’s music and all the performance scenes are lip-synced.

The film was enjoyable to watch but it felt shallow. The writers started with an outline of her life and = wrote a story the script to fit the plot points. If her life was a pond, the writers skipped a stone through it. Events are missing and some appear to be out of order.  Which leaves one feeling the movie lacked depth.

For example, the night Whitney sang the National Anthem at the Super Bowl. Whitney sang powerfully that night but what made that moment resonate and make people cry was that the 1st Gulf War had just started. The events are not even mentioned, so while Ackie got the performance down the full power of that moment was not there.

A few things I did like. One, showing the fullness of her relationship with Robyn Crawford.  I did enjoy showing her song selection process. Houston was not a songwriter; all of her songs were written for her. The movie shows Davis playing songs and how Houston would breathe life into what she heard on the tapes or CDs. Finally, I liked how they handled her last days, that was the most well-shot part of the film.

Houston was a part of my teen years. I remember her first album dropped, I heard interviews and watched parts of the Bobby Brown reality show, which is why I’m dissatisfied. Her life story deserved to be told, I just think this was the wrong platform. A 4 to 6-part docuseries on a streaming service would have solved my issues. The additional time could have included her live performances, interviews, and reenactments where necessary. 

The film is not bad, I just know it could have been better.

2.5 stars out of 5

About Simply Sherri (60 Articles)
Poet, writer, movie nerd and historian.

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