Whitney : Can I Be Me
M assive talent, inner turmoil, dead too soon: Nick Broomfield’s portrait of Whitney Houston’s rise and plummet shares more than a first-name title with recent docs about Amy Winehouse and Janis Joplin. It lacks the all-access density of Amy, but doc vet Broomfield tackles Houston’s tale with similar tools, navigating choppy emotions with old-school docu-rigour.
Broomfield ( Kurt & Courtney) works reams of archive matter into narrative shape and shakes them up for revelations. Houston’s ’hood upbringing and long-rumoured lesbian relationship with Robyn Crawford (not interviewed, sadly) are explored. We learn, too, how Houston’s mainstream-targeted image drew criticism. Though hurt, Houston’s talent shines through: in Rudi Dolezal’s up-close 1999 live footage, her voice roars.
Yet the roar became a rasp when drugs took hold. Exacerbated by family troubles and industry pressures, Houston couldn’t stall her 2000s fall. Grimly, she couldn’t save her daughter, either. Broomfield doesn’t address Houston’s painful 2010 return, but he hardly needs to. As a richly detailed portrait of showbiz tragedy at its cruellest, Whitney is heart-wringing enough already. Kevin Harley
Fame eats its own: Broomfield deepens an archetypal tale with the aches of human loss and talent wasted.
Whitney Houston at her spine-tingling best. Certificate 15 Director Nick Broomfield, Rudi Dolezal Starring Whitney Houston Screenplay Blanche McIntyre, Tom Hodgson Distributor Dogwoof Running time 105 mins