That Grape Juice Reviews: Lifetime’s ‘Whitney’

Published: Tuesday 13th Jan 2015 by Rashad
whitney houston movie thatgrapejuice

It’s no secret that viewers of Lifetime’s shambolic ‘Aaliyah:  The Princess of R&B’ shuddered when greeted with news that the women’s network would tackle an unauthorized biographical account of pop icon Whitney Houston.  While comforted by thoughts that the film’s director, Houston’s ‘Waiting To Exhale’ co-star Angela Bassett, at least knew her personally, the absence of familial support or involvement (just like the Wendy Williams produced affair) discouraged some fans from lending support.

At That Grape Juice, we initially shared that same skepticism.  After one view of the emotional rollercoaster that is Lifetime’s ‘Whitney,’ however, we can say with certainty that this could very well be the TV event of the season.

Read why below:

Angela Bassett has made it well known that ‘Whitney’ is not a full length biopic, per se.  Instead of recouting the singer’s entire life, it primarily and heavily focuses on the “largeness” of Houston’s and Brown’s life and love during the early phase of their relationship.  As such, fans hoping to learn more about the superstar pre- or post-Brown will be disappointed as display there is sparse.  But, like Bassett has consistently emphasized in interviews, the film, in its brevity of scope, is “honest.”

When pressed by reporters on why she did not concentrate on the more notorious aspects and decline of Houston’s career, she said:

“Do we really need to see that? She was a mother, sister, friend. We forget that she just wanted to live a normal life.”

The “honesty” prescribed by Bassett can be found in the light, but still very present, tackle of Houston’s demons – jealousy from Brown, the pressures of fame, the pursuit of normalcy, and, of course, drug use. But, what we appreciated is that none of the aforementioned became so much the focus of the film that it lost its way and demonized the music couple.

yaya-dacosta-lifetime-biopic-arlen-escarpeta-full-size

The two were just “crazy in love,” as Whitney said in her now famous interview with Oprah Winfrey, and the cast of Yaya DaCosta (Whitney) and Arlen Escarpeta could not have been a better choice. Given the former’s limited acting experience, viewers will be pleasantly surprised at how well she carried the magnitude of capturing the essence of one of music history’s biggest characters without looking like a poor ‘SNL’ skit.  Like DaCosta, Escarpeta does not do Brown’s character the injustice of “parody,” but instead humanizes a long-damned figure of pop culture who is often credited with ruining Houston’s “national treasure.”

Overall, while a bit too careful in parts of telling Whitney’s story, ‘Whitney’ walks a fine line of honesty and taste – a quality we appreciate.  Casting (especially that of Clive Davis) was almost eerily spot on and, unlike the Aaliyah film, the inclusion of Houston and Brown’s actual music makes an enormous difference.

That Grape Juice Grade:  B+

Your thoughts?

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  1. AmbeRussell January 13, 2015

    I hate when ppl complain that actors don’t look EXACTLY like the person they are playing. Angela basset ain’t look like biggie mom or Tina turner, keke Palmer didn’t look like the girl in that football movie she was in or the ppl in reenactments on tv shows or etc. I rather a great perfoance by someone who can embody the person they are playing than simply look like them. Anyways, hope the movie is good. I have way higher hopes for this than that multi casting of a biopic called aaliyah.

    • SMH January 13, 2015

      I wish people would stop using Angela Bassett as Tina for an excuse. She was the exception. Biopics work best when the actor portraying the subject resembles the subject. Charlize Theron’s Oscar win for ‘Monster’ was mostly due to the transformation her appearance went to look like Aileen Wournos. And Jamie Foxx’ Oscar win & portrayal of Ray Charles was mostly effective because he literally LOOKED like Ray Charles. The main reason most biopics fail is because they never pick a person who looks like the subject.

  2. FixItJesus January 13, 2015

    This film, unlike Wendy’s hot mess, will definitely be a hit. Angela Bassett slayed in her role as Tina Turner so she most certainly knows how a biopic SHOULD go. I wonder what Wendy’ll have to say when she discusses this premiere on her show…

  3. DanYiel Teflon January 13, 2015

    I’m a Total “Whitney Houston” fan I hope this movie is a Movie quite sad it took her death to become a movie Especially for “Lifetime” instead of an actual Movie Theatre!!

  4. Casual-T January 13, 2015

    I was a Whitney “stan” from the beginning. I’m so here for this. Can’t wait.

  5. JOHNVIDAL January 13, 2015

    I don´t like the fact that the movie only represents a small part of Whitney´s life and career (how predictable: the marriage to Bobby and The Bodyguard era). Are we going to pretend like her phenomenal 80s success didn´t happen?
    Apart from that, it still could be good I guess. Whitney is too big for this imo so I don´t care much.

    • Royalkev January 13, 2015

      Agreed. Whitney’s 80’s start/career should never be a footnote in any biopic about her life. The woman sold 45+ million albums and earned 7 Hot 100 #1’s (from only 2 releases) in that decade. Bobby was no slouch either, ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ was the #1 album of 1989 (btw, Whitney’s ‘Whitney Houston’ album was also the #1 album of ’86). New Edition also happened before Whitney! So why zero in on their love life mainly, when we have 2 music sensations, block-buster movie success and other more personal victories here that shouldn’t be ignored (or downplayed)?!

      • JOHNVIDAL January 14, 2015

        Exactly!

    • Whitney Damita Jo Carey January 13, 2015

      You can’t please everyone, sis. Whitney’s life was too gigantic to fit in a two-hour film.

      • Royalkev January 13, 2015

        ^ I totally feel you on that, but at the same time the effort should at least be made! It’s not a matter of some significant details being lost in a film about Whitney’s life. The problem is that it’s titled “Whitney” and we’re getting the “Whitney & Bobby” story! Imagine after it’s said and done with Bey, someone makes a movie primarily about life with Bey &Jay (instead of the focus being equally about her career). What if Rihanna gets a story on “The Chris Brown Years” after she’s done? Nicki gets … “and Then There was a Break-up (Love Gone Wrong with Safaree)”. It just doesn’t totally make sense.

  6. coolness January 13, 2015

    First of all, this movie does not have the blessing from her family which is why Whitney’s original music can’t be used. I think the fact that it’s Angela Bassett, who is an acclaimed actress directing it that has made people gloss over what the Aaliyah biopic was mercilessly (and rightfully) dragged for. It does look good but I honestly feel like Whitney is deserving of a big-screen flick. The Bodyguard era alone proves that. Anyway, good luck to those involved.

    • Royalkev January 13, 2015

      Great point! The lack of the Houston family’s support and blessings doesn’t sit well with me at all. It appears that doesn’t seem to matter with certain entertainers though. Judging from the clips, the film will have it’s “juicy” parts and that’s enough to create interest. Whitney wasn’t a dull gal! I’m no hater, I’m glad Yaya and Deborah is getting work. I just hope the integrity of this film isn’t lost and all the highlighted drama that gives everyone a rush isn’t the only draw for this movie. It would be such a disservice to Whitney.

  7. DTG January 13, 2015

    Most bio pics are made-for-TV movies. Elvis, the Jacksons, John and Paul, the Temptations, Natalie Cole,etc. A big screen adaptation of someone’s life has to be handled extremely delicately and can easily fail. My only beef is that I don’t like it being on basic cable. This should have been on ABC.

  8. Black power January 13, 2015

    You could almost do everything right & some people still will find a reason to complain! I’m totally here for this movie. And the fact her family isn’t behind it, doesn’t surprise me! They’re money hungry & dysfunctional that was obvious after they did that reality show. However later on down the line I would love to see a big another movie with everything covered, but not for another 10 years or so. Just my opinion.

  9. Stanley January 14, 2015

    I seen the previews and I think it’s awful.. She couldn’t capture Whitney’s Elegance. I think she looked at Youtube Videos from 1999- 2001 and over dramatized her face and other moments.

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