Whitney Houston likely doesn’t need an introduction, having lead a celebrated career as a singer and actress in her tragically short life. Director Kevin Macdonald sought to tell her powerful story, summarizing her 48 years in his two-hour documentary, Whitney.


Covering a subject like Whitney Houston must be a daunting task, between balancing the many professional and personal facets of her life. While the film’s timespan prevents us from delving too deep into any given moment of her life, we are nevertheless given a thorough overview of it, beginning with her humble church origins.

Archival footage depicting historical events — highlighting moments like Ronald Reagan’s presidency or the Persian Gulf War — are interjected into the film, juxtaposing footage of Houston and relating her life to the events that helped shape it. Likewise, footage of Houston, such as her appearances on numerous late night talk shows to her disastrous 2009 comeback tour, are readily utilized too, giving us snapshots of her career. We also get to see clips of Houston when her professional veneer is off, giving insight into the woman herself.


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Houston’s successes and the impact they had, both in relation to the general populace and the African American community, are explored by Macdonald. Many guests who were pertinent fixtures in the singer’s life were interviewed, from her hairdresser to her ex-husband Bobby Brown and her The Bodyguard costar Kevin Costner. The “How Will I Know” artist’s tragic downward trajectory is detailed along with the inner workings of the patriarchal familial business that allowed it to happen. Alleged family secrets, like how Houston’s father schemed to scare her close friend Robyn Crawford away or how her cousin, Dee Dee Warwick, allegedly molested her when she was a kid, paint an intriguing picture of Houston’s life that informed her likely inevitable issues.

Disappointingly, Whitney’s bonus features offer little to further explore the film’s nuanced namesake. A commentary track is included, along with a photo gallery and a collection of trailers.

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