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Whitney is one of those documentaries that’s equal parts beautiful and sad. It’s beautiful to see this woman, unparalleled in vocal ability, catapulted to the heights of super-stardom and adoration. It’s hard to see cocaine addiction ravage her, and those closest to her take advantage of her wealth and fame. But that is the story of Whitney Houston.

Beginning with her childhood, Scottish director Kevin Macdonald pieces together her life. Access to previously unseen home photos and videos certainly gives Whitney the upper hand over the other documentary to be released about Whitney Houston in the past twelve months – Whitney: Can I Be Me. Whitney also carries explosive allegations and insights into the life and legend of one of the world’s greatest singers.

“It was an intriguing mystery story to understand why someone who had everything – the beauty, the talent, the money and every opportunity – went so wrong,” MacDonald said at an interview in Cannes.

Whitney Houston’s mother is one of the people interviewed for the documentary

MacDonald’s attempt to solve that mystery include interviews with her mother, brothers, aunts, managers and ex-husband Bobby Brown. Together, they paint the picture that her childhood was not the picture-perfect scene sold to the general public. Her parents left the children for long periods of time. There were affairs. There was drug use from an early age, and of course the accusations of sexual abuse which by now are splashed across the tabloids.

It’s a tragic story and I won’t disservice the documentary by retelling it all here. But if you’re a Whitney fangirl or you’ve felt cynical about her since the 90s, it doesn’t matter. She’s still Whitney Houston, the woman who broke more music industry records than any other female singer in history. She is the only artist to have seven consecutive U.S. number one singles.  At nearly 2 hours Whitney is on the long side, but this is a story that takes time to tell.

Whitney is beautiful because it reminds you that truly, her voice exists in its own league. It’s sad, because – well, why did things have to end this way for a beautiful, talented woman?

Whitney is in NZ cinemas Thursday, July 26





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