On Saturday January 17th, Lifetime's Whitney Houston's biopic aired. The TV Movie has Yaya DeCosta portraying the iconic songstress and Arlen Escapeta playing her husband, R&B star Bobby Brown. The film also saw the directorial debut of actress Angela Bassett who co-starred with Houston in the highly successful movie "Waiting to Exhale."
Rather than tackle the entirety of Houston's life, which came to an abrupt end in early 2012, the telepic focuses on the high points of her career and her marriage with R&B star Bobby Brown (Arlen Escapeta). In fact, there's no mention of Houston's death in either the movie or postscript.
DeCosta explains the reason why they left out the death of Houston: "Her passing was pretty recent, I think too recent to explore on the screen. People want to remember the good times and feel good about who she really was. It was a very tactful choice and because of that choice, it's a film that I'm proud to be of."
The biopic got the thumbs down from Houston's estate. Pat Houston, president of the singer's estate and Hoston's sister-in-law, issued a critical statement about the movie on Houston's website on the eve of the movie's airing. She said the movie was done without the family's blessing and against the wishes of her mother.
"If you watch this movie, watch it knowing that Lifetime is notorious for making bad biopics of deceased celebrities and brace yourself for the worst," Pat Houston wrote.
The New York Times' Jon Caramanica says, "For two hours, this film cherry-picks moments of Houston's life -- some recognizable, some not -- and stitches them together into a perplexing, not altogether comforting quilt. ... It feels as if it were conceived and executed from afar. What's more, this is a biopic that's skeptical of its subject, that at times appears to be working actively against her interests," as Houston is not often the hero of scenes. The hourlong interview,Bobby Brown: Remembering Whitney, with Brown and journalist Shaun Robinson that will air after Whitney "is far more riveting than the film that occasions its existence." Still, "DaCosta fluently mimics Houston's gestural tics, the quick neck-snaps and chin-juts that she brought to her performances. And Houston's vocals are delivered gloriously by Cox."
Los Angeles Times' Robert Lloyd notes, "Though it works in parts and pieces -- were you to be shown any random scene out of context, you might imagine a better picture -- it doesn't add up to much. ... It's a better-than-average Lifetime film -- and at its boudoir heart, it is very much a Lifetime film." As the title character, "DaCosta is remarkably convincing lip-syncing to Cox's re-recordings of Houston's hits. But though DaCosta and Escarpeta each creates a sympathetic character -- at times, the picture feels meant to make you forget you ever saw Being Bobby Brown -- they lack chemistry. For all the script insists otherwise, their love, and thus the film about it, feels something less than necessary."
Newsday's Verne Gay explains, "It's full of warmth and passion and an unspoken sense that, three years after Houston's death, what most fans probably want to remember, or do remember, is the Houston life force. That style, and grace, and elegance, and beauty ... and especially that joy. ... What Bassett has done is to write a love letter to Houston and Brown. Escarpeta's Brown subverts the prevailing public image of him in every scene -- here, he's a gentle soul with a good heart, who wants to do right by his children and Whitney. ... Bassett refuses to cast blame for the troubles, and we're left with a portrait that has plenty of love -- just not a whole lot of insight or edge."
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