Those ‘Amy’ comparisons are well-earned: Kevin Macdonald’s Whitney Houston doc is a visceral journey into the eye of a storm.
You don’t have to be a fan of Whitney Houston’s music to love director Kevin Macdonald’s ('Touching The Void') sharp-edged, revelatory and seriously emotional documentary about her life. Even if the very mention of ‘I Will Always Love You’ brings you out in hives, you’ll find yourself re-evaluating your feelings for this still oddly underappreciated talent. Her journey from childhood prodigy – this big-eyed girl, nicknamed ‘Nippy’, lighting up the early part of the film like a firework – to superstar mirrors Amy Winehouse’s in ‘Amy’. But strip away the tabloid tales and excess, and both have one thing in common: a childlike love of music and lungs like bellows. The power of Houston’s music is only amplified on the big screen – heck, even ‘I Will Always Love You’ sounds good here.
Of course, you don’t get far into Houston’s life without stumbling on her self-destructive streak. Macdonald doesn’t shy away from the drugs, booze and erratic behaviour that blighted her later years. There’s footage of rooms strewn with drug paraphernalia and painfully candid scenes of her and husband Bobby Brown leading each other to darker and darker places. But the most harrowing revelation of all comes during two of Macdonald’s many interviews with friends, family and associates. It’s a piece of digging that adds investigative weight to the film and a hard-hitting coda to his exploration of the fragile psychology of stardom.