There is absolutely no denying Whitney Houston will always be The Voice. There’s also no denying her fall from grace was horribly and unfairly publicised. But what I Wanna Dance with Somebody shows us is two things, firstly people continue to love her, and also this movie doesn’t really do her justice.
The movie takes us on a wonderful journey through her teenage years. Under the watchful eye of her famous mother, Whitney wows crowds from the church choir. Come night she wows crowds as her mother’s backup singer.
Living a simple life as a teenager Whitney one day meets Robyn. Their connection is instant as they enjoy their days in each other’s company. It isn’t long until their connection soon turns into a romance. A romance not supported by Whitney’s Manager who happens to also be her father.
As Whitney’s career blossoms so does the media coverage. Blasted for not being black enough and criticized for being too white; Whitney was in tabloids for all the wrong reasons.
Whitney makes a decision to change her image and partners with popular R&B singer, Bobby Brown. Married, a mother and not to mention all the touring, the lifestyle started to take a toll. Whitney’s use of drugs overtook her ability to be a mother, a daughter or perform as she once did.
Here’s the thing with I Wanna Dance with Somebody, it’s a story most viewers will know or at least know a large part of. For that reason, the movie is far too long. It’s a slow build to her stardom then it holds for a long time as her life falls apart only to have a quick wrap up of her final years performing. Because everyone knows the story it would have been far more interesting to maintain a pace throughout.
The greatest and most brilliant part of this film is the outstanding and extraordinary performance from Naomi Ackie. Not only could she take the audience on the vocal journey as if Whitney was in the room. Ackie managed to bring a dramatic performance that went to some places only few people will ever know. There is a moment in one of her final scenes where she is having the biggest internal debate. Staring into the mirror as the camera pulls in close to her tear filled eyes, the viewer can feel the world on her shoulders with her. A powerful performance.
The other performance worthy of a mention is the ever brilliant Stanley Tucci who plays Whitney’s Record Producer Clive Davis. Tucci plays this very powerful almost untouchable man that has this rather gentle and welcoming demeanor underneath. You can see the multiple layers to his character and understand his motives. The chemistry between Ackie and Tucci is not only adorable but there is a real connection there as well.
For those that enjoy Whitney’s music but don’t like a musical, you’re in safe hands with this film. There’s a careful balance between the dramatic retelling of her life and her music. You’ll get snippets of some of the songs and big parts of another. Songs you won’t have heard and songs you’ll struggle not to sing along with. This film will guarantee you’ll be pulling out her CDs you have in storage for another spin. If you can find your CD player.
While there isn’t anything special to the cinematography, the set design is on point for the time periods. But what will catch your eye is the replications of her famous outfits she wore over time. The attention to detail is as stunning as Naomi Ackie is wearing them.
Overall, I Wanna Dance with Somebody is a wonderful tale of the world’s greatest singer. This film doesn’t hold back on the spiral to her death, but balances the bad with her successes. It does feel a bit stretched out and bland at times, but you’ll soon forget that when she sings. And if you don’t get goosebumps, can you call yourself a fan?
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