An in-depth look at the life and music of Whitney Houston.

Dove Review

Biographical documentaries walk something of a tightrope. At their best, they may offer profound insights into the subject, alive or deceased, and dig a little deeper with the hope that we may understand these people more intimately. Yet at their worst, they may become too “standardized”; chronicling their beginnings, highs, lows, and potential ends. That, in short, is the spectrum of the biography.

With Whitney in mind, director Kevin Macdonald seems to explore both the best and worst of this aforementioned biographical spectrum. There is a lot we get to understand about the objectively talented Whitney Houston—and a lot that we don’t, which adds to some of the film’s beauty and ambiguity. Macdonald often represents her with footage as a singer, while her actions and words are often dubbed over with interviewee narration. Yet at the end of the day, the film is still very standardized, matching the expected notes of early rise, career highs, and fall from grace.

It begs a question: Why make these kinds of films for the big screen when there are plenty of television channels that can cover the same types of stories? By the film’s end (and it does take its time to get there), Macdonald sticks the landing by unearthing many questions about Whitney’s life and making a call for empathy from others. To see such empathy on the big screen is something we should all stand behind. It is only harder to do so with a film that is so, within reason, predictable and poorly edited.

The Dove Take

These thoughts on the film are not meant to reflect the thoughts on the artist. Whitney Houston had an incredible gift that she shared with others, and the film’s use of long takes of music footage and spoken analysis from others help to realize it without being condescending to the audience. More so, we learn about her tragedies and struggles that are meant to make us feel for her, and hopefully, wonder if we can feel for those who struggle around us that are subject to fame.

With many adult themes to be aware of, Dove cannot approve Whitney.

Content Description

Faith: Whitney claimed that her talent came from God and references praying to Him.
Integrity: The film subtly encourages empathy for daily struggles.
Sex: References to incest and infidelity
Language: Moderate uses of "F***"/"MotherF*****" and "Sh**" (4); some uses of "Da**", "B****", and "D***"
Violence: Footage showing police violence from the 1960s; a brief death threat
Drugs: References to Whitney's drug use; images of smoking and drinking; brief shot of someone inhaling cocaine
Nudity: Some mildly revealing costumes as worn by Whitney
Other: References to homosexuality and bisexuality.


Company: Unknown
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Genre: Documentary
Runtime: 120 min.
Reviewer: Rory P.