“I Will Always Love You” Whitney Houston

Amanda Putter

Over the past five years, the biopic genre has evolved into a whimsical telling of a celebrity story. This is seen in Rocketman, where Elton John confronts his younger self and people of his past in rehab. Unlike Rocketman, I Wanna Dance With Somebody refuses to let Whitney Houston’s drug addiction take center stage. Rather, the film manages to push past the controversy and drugs that Houston is often remembered for to reveal Houston’s personality and talent that got her famous in the first place. I Wanna Dance With Somebody is more than a film about Whitney Houston’s life; it was a celebration of her life. 

The opening credits roll, and on the screen flashes Naomi Ackie as Whitney Houston during her famous 1994 AMAs performance. From the moment we see Naomi Ackie as Whitney Houston, Houston is brought to life on the silver screen. Throughout the movie, Houston is portrayed as authentically as possible with the late singer’s voice being used in all singing scenes. 

It is clear from the beginning that Houston’s story is tragic. Even before her accidental drowning in 2012, Houston had, simply put, complicated relationships with her best friend and manager Robyn “Robbie” Crawford, ex-husband Bobby Brown, and father John Russel Houston. These relationships, however, are pushed to the back by reenactments of Whitney Houston’s most memorable performances. 

Houston was portrayed as being ahead of her time. The movie shows Houston dealing with controversy from the Black music community that claimed she wasn’t “black enough.” Houston refused to back down from the critics and never allowed anyone to put her music into a specific genre. It is the freedom that Houston had as an artist that allowed her to have the success that she did, and this freedom was an integral part of the movie. Houston chose all of the songs that she recorded, which is why she is as celebrated today as she was over thirty years ago.

As the movie progressed, I was reminded of Houston’s talent and why she was called “The Voice.” Through the movie we see Houston singing in her most famous performances, including her music videos, movie (The Bodyguard), and 1991 National Anthem performance at the Super Bowl. But the most powerful performance of all came at the end of the movie. Instead of ending the movie with Houston’s tragic death, it ends with her 1994 AMAs performance, showing Houston at her best. These last ten minutes are some of the movie’s best, showcasing Houston’s raw talent and captivity. This iconic performance and melody include “I Love You, Porgy,” “I Am Telling You,” and Houston’s own “I Have Nothing.” Ending with this performance is extremely powerful as it perfectly captures Houston’s legacy in one scene. Instead of walking away talking about how tragic Houston’s life was, I walked out with a newfound admiration for one of our generation’s best voices.

*Warning: this movie is rated PG-13 as it shows drugs and smoking as well as strong language. *