Film Review: Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody

Before Alanis, before Dolores, before Courtney – and all the rock girls of the 90s, there was only one singer that mattered to me and her name was Whitney. Her voice was unlike anyone else’s and sure, some will say that Mariah is a close substitute, but Whitney Houston was in a class of her own, which is why losing her was so tragic.

Biopics are always tricky. I honestly love biopics about musicians because watching someone you love to rise to the top and being inundated by their hits is always a fun time. But it’s always a challenge for the director to know what parts of a musician’s life are cinematic enough and finding the right actor to embody someone that has many fans is also difficult.

Having said that, I do think that Naomi Ackie had some huge boots to fill and she did her best to capture Whitney’s essence through mannerisms, accent, and demeanor. And although, Ackie can sing, the director opted to keep Whitney’s voice for the musical moments in the movie, although since Ackie’s voice is in Whitney’s range, she was able to sing in some moments like in the gospel choir, when Whitney was young, and still needed to refine her voice.

Ackie’s performance is spellbinding and for the duration of the film, the audience can suspend belief, and feel like Whitney is actually there with them. As a fan, it’s always a plunge into the dark when going to see a biopic because you hope that the film captures what that artist really means to you. I was happy to see that this biopic decided to be a celebration of Whitney’s life and talent rather than take the tragic route ala Blonde (thankfully!).

If you’re a Whitney fan, I suggest catching this movie as it delves not only into her early days but also doesn’t shy away from depicting her relationship with Robyn Crawford (NeFessa Williams). Since there’s so much material to cover, it’s hard for the movie to focus on every aspect of her life, or show what motherhood meant to her. But that’s always a difficult call for the director to make, what parts of a person’s life are best meant to be representative of them as a person? All in all, this is a fun film to watch if you like musician biopics and want to see a movie celebrating Whitney’s talent and incredible voice.

Now playing in theaters.

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