Whitney Houston was a phenomenally successful recording artist and live performer. But, as has become ever clearer in the years since her untimely death at the age of 48, she was not remotely happy. Small wonder too, given that many of the people with whom she was surrounded were exploitative, disloyal and self-serving. This well-made and ingeniously edited documentary, the second in as many years, supplies some harrowing new examples – including alleged sexual abuse – of just how tragic the reality was behind the public myth.
Houston’s mother Cissy was of course a singer too, and arguably a better one. As a parent she could be pushy, and an unpleasant disciplinarian, but her shortcomings are easily matched by those of Whitney’s father John, who notoriously attempted to sue his megastar daughter for $100 million.
Very few people, in fact, emerge well from this film, and that includes most of the onscreen interviewees, few of whom made any attempt to arrest Houston’s decline into substance-abusing emaciation. (No one, it seems, wants to derail a gravy train if they’re a passenger.) The fall from ostensible grace is particularly spectacular given the singer’s early innocent image, and background in gospel music and religiosity. And Whitney is unfortunately not the only hapless figure in this sorry saga; her own daughter Bobbi Kristina had a short and blighted existence.
You don’t need to like Whitney Houston’s music to find this doco interesting. (Although the quorum of live concert footage will add to its appeal if you are.) It’s a very sad personal story, and pretty absorbing on that level.