I saw Whitney 2018 and was disappointed. It was excruciatingly painful. I expected to see a film that shed light on her talent and creative spirit. The movie in tabloidian style dug up new dirt and family secrets we did not need to know. Her powerful voice which still gives me goose bumps when I hear it is incredible and was the only light in the film.
I would have loved to see Cissy Houston telling the secrets of how she nurtured Whitney’s talents. It would have been great to hear her siblings and colleagues speak of the methods Whitney used when she practiced her craft. I would have enjoyed it if her cousin Dionne spoke of the tips she must have given Whitney regarding improving her techniques or what she told Whitney about how to best rise to the top of the mountain amidst the obstacles. I would have been happy to hear a conversation about Whitney’s humanitarianism. It would have felt good if the public learned that through her pain, she was a successful film producer as well as actress. The audience should have been reminded that though she had personal challenges, her films as well as her records were always successful. Her story is one of pain, but she made tremendous gains in an industry in which it is not easy for any artist, especially an African American female. Throughout Whitney’s life, she tried to hold on to her faith and her Bible. I remember her saying this in her last Oprah Winfrey interview. I do not remember this being mentioned in the film. There was only a clip of how she loved going to church in her early days. The demons may have been following her, but she beat the odds and kept trying to rise again until her last days.
Whitney has a great legacy and the public narrative should not always center upon her marriage or her on-going challenges. It is time to see a film which focuses on her phenomenal gifts, the woman who helped to nurture it -Cissy Houston, the impact Whitney made as an artist, and the foundation she had as a member of the Drinkard family. That is the film I want to see.
It was shocking to read the July 23, 2018 People magazine article in which Cissy Houston and her niece Dionne Warwick gave a joint statement regarding the film. The film marketed as authorized by the estate is tainted by unconscionable practices. Whitney 2018 was shown to Cissy Houston only two days before its release to the Cannes Film Festival. How can the filmmakers wait to tell an elder only days before the film’s release that the film reports her deceased daughter was allegedly molested as a child, knowing that this is the first time she has been notified of this horrific crime against her little girl? How could this heart -breaking news been kept from Dionne who is the sister of the alleged perpetrator? This smells like guile. This is not to suggest the revelations are false; only Whitney and Dee Dee know the truth. It seems that a” friend” or a personal assistant whom Whitney “trusted” would have let Whitney’s mother know what she had revealed because revelations of this nature would most likely be used in the final footage. It, also, seems that the production of a credible narrative would have included commentary from Cissy Houston or Dionne Warwick regarding their knowledge or comments, if any, of the allegations.
I am not naïve enough to believe in the 21st century that the film would be devoid of tabloidian trinkets. However, I was expecting to see a film in the nature of what Spike Lee produced for the Jackson estate. Lee could have drawn from the tons of data available on Jackson’s personal life or found new allegations to texture the film; yet, he chose to focus on the artistry and the legacy of Jackson, not his painful, over-reported personal life. Whitney was first and foremost an artist, an American Master, a daughter of an American master: Cissy Houston, the cousin of an American master: Dionne Warwick; born into a family of talented American artists; raised in the presence of America’s greatest artists; and married to a talented though controversial artist. When will this legacy be explored? Is Whitney Elizabeth Houston, an American Master, whose voice makes me want to stand up and salute the flag when she sings the Star Spangled Banner, not worthy of a film which documents her fine artistry, her pursuit of excellence, and her still unsurpassable achievements??