Run time: 144 mins
Naomi Ackie is pitch-perfect as the late R&B icon in this heartfelt musical biopic.
Director Kasi Lemmons creates a portrait of Houston’s dilemmas and demons that’s bracingly authentic, from the drugs to the family backstabbing to the love relationship with Robin Crawford (Nafessa Williams) that a homophobic society made her feel compelled to repress, from the attacks she weathered for her music being “not Black enough” to the self-destructive refuge she sought in her relationship with the Bobby Brown (Ashton Sanders). Whitney gets dragged down by forces both in and outside her. Yet through it all, her voice, her songs, her artistry of faith shines through.
As Houston, Ackie is far from the singer’s physical double, yet she nails the hard part, scorching her fiery, burning persona across the screen. She captures the freedom that made Houston tick and the self-doubt that ate away at her, until she fell from the mountaintop she’d scaled.
A release primed for awards season, this is the kind of lavish all-stops-out pop-music biopic you either give in to or you don’t.