Lifetime’s ‘Whitney’ Biopic Aims High But Falls Unfortunately Short

Photo: Lifetime

It’s nothing new that Lifetime makes made-for-television movies. It’s also nothing new that from time to time, these movies are biopics. After much anticipation, the cable TV network debuted a new biopic based on the turbulent life of Whitney Houston, Whitney. Directed by Angela Bassett and starring Yaya DaCosta as the namesake Ms. Houston, the film has received quite a bit of controversy (and this is also nothing new; a few months back Lifetime debuted a biopic based on the life of recording artist and actress Aaliyah, which was universally panned and described as “disgusting and disgraceful” by several critics). The controversy surrounding Whitney has been mostly fueled by the Houston family, who have said the TV film is terribly disrespectful and went to extensive lengths to make the media aware they were NOT okay with the making of Whitney.

And in truth, there was a lot of things wrong with the movie. They were extremely generous in the portrayal of her drug use, even for a cable television movie, and the entire plot of the movie was based on her romance and messy, messy, messy marriage to fellow recording artist Bobby Brown (played by Arlen Escarpeta). And honestly, I don’t really believe Yaya DaCosta was the right choice to play an R&B legend. Her acting was great and she channeled the late singer’s mannerisms fairly well, it’s just, I didn’t buy her as Whitney Houston. I just didn’t. Maybe if I were to watch it again she’d grow on me, but that first time I wasn’t feeling it. But it seems to me she was the only one close enough to play her in a way they were looking for.

DaCosta’s singing was consistent. Mostly. They completely butchered “I’m Every Woman” (like, in every way possible) but the legendary “I Will Always Love You” was actually pretty descent (I would say it was pretty good instead of pretty descent, but I’m a tough critic when it comes to music legends.) But the movie’s biggest fault? It wasn’t long enough. Whitney had a wild life, that’s no secret. But two hours (including commercials, so a little less) just wasn’t enough. It felt like it was brought to an end too quickly. And it probably was, because it’s a Lifetime movie. I’m probably going a little too hard on a cable television flick. But we’re talking about Whitney Houston here, that girl deserves a big screen biopic with Oscar noms! (Not that the Houstons would allow that, either…)

But, in honesty, Whitney wasn’t THAT bad. The acting was very good, and Angela Bassett’s direction was visibly well done. I just wonder if they know that there was a whole lot more to Whitney Houston than her incredibly ugly marriage to Bobby Brown because, as previously stated, that’s basically what the movie was about. Would I recommend it? Yes. I would. I would just say to keep in mind that it’s a Lifetime movie, and that comes with certain obvious expectations.

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