On February 11th, 2012, Whitney Houston passed away. Her extraordinary life was full of the highest highs and the lowest lows. Director Kevin Macdonald covers all of it, and more, in his new documentary, Whitney.
The film starts with Whitney’s early life as a child singing in church and follows her journey all the way up to her untimely death. The film is mostly interviews and candid videos of Whitney on tour, at home, or in the studio – the audience gets to hear Whitney tell her story in her own voice (similar to 2003’s Tupac: Resurrection). The rest of the film consists of various people close to Whitney telling their stories.
Macdonald doesn’t unearth any new revelations about Whitney’s life. Some of what’s revealed has been part of her many tabloid headlines. Other revelations are stories that came to light shortly after she passed.
The beauty of the film is seeing Whitney perform live. Macdonald shows some of her performances in full. Whitney’s first ever TV performance, a performance early in her career at a club, and Whitney’s iconic National Anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl. One of the best sequences in the film is learning how that performance came to be – it serves as a reminder that Whitney wasn’t just an once-in-a-lifetime talent; she was as brilliant as she was gifted at singing.
As beautiful as the film is, Whitney’s untimely death is a dark cloud that looms over every amazing moment that gets highlighted. As her life progresses, knowing it takes a turn for the worst only makes things sadder. All of the sadness is covered from her troubled relationship with Bobby Brown, extensive drug use, and the heartbreaking life of her daughter Bobby Kristina.
Whitney is one of the best documentaries of the year. Macdonald gracefully talks about Whitney’s life in its entirety. He’s not heavy-handed with the good or bad, just letting Whitney tell her story through her own words and performances. Whitney was one of the most iconic musicians of our time and this film will remind people just how special she was.