Thursday 15 June 2017

Film Review: Whitney - Can I Be Me

Whitney: Can I Be Me is a sombre and sharp feature length documentary about the tragic life and times of Whitney Houston.

Whitney: Can I Be Me doesn’t dress things up to make it look pretty or sidestep the uglier truths of its subject; directors Nick Broomfield (who also serves as writer) and Rudi Dolezal take a surgical scalpel to Houston’s life and career and pick apart a range of facets and factors that ultimately lead to her tragic passing in 2012. 

From her early years as a church gospel singer through to her rapid rise through the ranks and award-winning success to some of the hostility she faced from an African-American audience that felt at odds with her mainstream pop sound, the duo of documentarians unpack Houston’s meteoric success and sudden struggles with a refreshing and surprising degree of candidness – talking heads from family members along with never-before-seen behind-the-scenes footage of her 1999 world tour make Can I Be Me a deep, tragic and decisive storybook of her life and work for fans, as well as an informative introduction for those with a passing knowledge of her music, such as myself.

The film shifts gear on a number of occasions to shine a light on particularly influential members of the Houston family – from her controlling mother to the complicated dynamic with her father – as well as her evolving sound, her race, alcoholism, substance abuse, spiritual beliefs, sexuality, marriage, divorce, jealousies, financial problems, rehab and so on. 

The greatest issue with Can I Be Me is that it revisits a few of these too frequently or reiterates the same point on occasion – certain elements, like the power struggle between her husband, Bobby Brown, and her best friend, Robyn Crawford, are lingered on for too long, allowing the runtime to feel conflated towards the end of the film. 

The Verdict: 7.5/10

That said, it’s a comprehensive and uncompromising account of Houston’s rise and fall that should play well to audiences bringing all levels of prior knowledge to the table.

Whitney: Can I Be Me is in cinemas across Australia for a limited run now.

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