Whitney: Can I Be Me

"Excellent"

Whitney: Can I Be Me Review


Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to tell the story of Whitney Houston's tumultuous life. As the title suggests, what haunted the iconic singer most was an inability to live on her own terms. With strong echoes of 2015's Amy, this film presents a range of never-seen footage without commenting on it.

Broomfield assembles his movie around Dolezal's unfinished documentary about Houston's 1999 world tour, which turned out to be her final triumphant performances. As she travelled the globe, her world was unravelling around her. But the issues go back to her early childhood as a singing prodigy sculpted into a pop princess by her controlling mother, the gospel singer Cissy. And her record company maintained the popstar image. Meanwhile, her personal life was shaped by two key figures: her husband Bobby Brown and her manager-assistant Robyn Crawford, who clashed loudly about who should make decisions about Whitney's life. All of this led to crippling self-doubt, fuelled by a drug habit that had started when Whitney was a teen.

The story is edited out of sequence, circling around Houston's life. Much of the 1999 backstage footage is shockingly intimate, revealing aspects of the singer's personality and relationships with unexpected openness. And since it's accompanied by archive interviews and present-day comments from people who were there, each moment comes with a strong kick of resonance. The most striking interviewee is bodyguard David Roberts, who in 1995 warned the family of coming tragedy if they didn't make changes (he was sacked for speaking out of turn). Most glaringly absent are Brown and Crawford, who have simply refused to clear up the biggest rumours that have surrounded Houston's life, including the one relating to her sexuality.

Without these two important voices, the film feels somewhat incomplete. So questions linger about whether Whitney and Robyn were romantically involved, why Whitney suddenly ended her marriage to Bobby, and why no one reached out to help their daughter Bobbi Kristina (who appears in a number of haunting sequences). Even so, this is a bracingly powerful portrait of how the music industry consumes its artists, forcing them to create an image and stick with it, regardless of who they really are. Houston was a staggeringly talented performer who was never allowed to live on her own terms. And this film shows how she coped by turning to the drink and drugs that took her life at 48 in 2012. And perhaps telling her desperately sad story can help save another artist from the same fate.

Watch the trailer for Whitney: Can I Be Me



Facts and Figures

Genre: Documentaries

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: , Rudi Dolezal

Producer: , Marc Hoeferlin

Starring: as Herself (Archive Footage), Bobbi Kristina Brown as Herself (Archive Footage), as Himself (Archive Footage), Robyn Crawford as Herself (Archive Footage), John Russell Houston Jr. as Himself (Archive Footage), Cissy Houston as Herself, as Himself, as Himself (Archive Footage) (uncredited), as Himself (Archive Footage) (uncredited), as Himself (Archive Footage) (uncredited), as Herself (Archive Footage) (uncredited)

Contactmusic


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