Through intimate, piercing interviews with Whitney Houston’s family, friends and associates, narrative filmmaker and documentarian Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland; Marley) provides a well-rounded, seemingly complete portrait of the troubled pop star in Whitney.
The largely chronological telling charts her rise to fame from an exacting, talent-minded family and reaches full speed in energetic montages of Houston’s most successful runs, intercut with footage of national and global events that intelligently places her life within a larger cultural context.
While Whitney doesn’t include interviews with her longtime, stabilizing best friend Robyn Crawford — about whom much is said — and omits Houston’s two middle film credits (The Preacher’s Wife; Waiting to Exhale) and final lauded achievements like her Prince of Egypt duet with Mariah Carey, what makes the cut seems vital to showing who she was and the struggles she faced.
Fascinating still is the film’s parallels to Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck in terms of a talented person surrounded by enablers, including ex-husband Bobby Brown, whose bizarre evasiveness in discussing drugs in relation to Houston’s life feels straight out of an Errol Morris documentary.
Unless another filmmaker can get Brown to talk and use other means to fill in some of the additional gaps without making the project feel bloated and unwieldy, consider Whitney the authoritative statement on this particular departed talent.
Grade: B-plus. Rated R. Now playing at Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Roadside Attractions)