Houston’s struggle in Broomfield doco Whitney: Can I Be Me


Whitney Houston in Whitney: Can I Be Me.
Whitney Houston in Whitney: Can I Be Me.

A TALENTED, gifted performer whose life ended far too soon – it is a movie or pop star bio that is all too familiar.

Singer Whitney Houston’s life gets the documentary treatment by Nick Broomfield five years after she was found dead in a hotel bathtub, with friends and family recounting the star’s career rise and personal fall.

An opening sound bite by one close to her suggests that despite Houston’s much-reported drug addiction, it was a broken heart that put her in her grave.

With that angle, Whitney: Can I Be Me spends much time covering her relationship with her lifelong best friend and right-hand woman Robyn Crawford and how it was interrupted with the arrival of Houston’s eventual husband, singer Bobby Brown.

The tensions of an apparent love triangle (it is suggested Houston was bi-sexual and romantically involved with Crawford) bubbled under the surface as Houston’s star continued to rise, with the release of several hit songs, box office smash movie The Bodyguard and numerous awards showered on her.

And while many around her were concerned about her well-being based on her addiction to drugs, they continued to watch Houston struggle with helping herself.

Plenty of people explain Houston’s life, her ups, downs, addictions and struggles, and the bad blood between her husband and bestie, but despite the touted unprecedented and apparently extensive footage captured on her 1999 tour, where we are told the frays began to show clearly, little footage actually backs it up.

There is an unfortunate disconnect between what we are told and what we see.

Fans that followed Houston’s career closely may not get much out of this documentary, which tends to gloss over the most fascinating aspects – backlash from the black community against her manufactured pop image – and get fleeting screen time.

Alluding to Whitney’s possible bisexuality is the most salacious ingredient, but feels greatly based on rumours.

Her talent is undeniable and this film is a welcome reminder, tinged with sadness and tragedy, that such gifts should not be forgotten or taken for granted.THE ESSENTIALS

Whitney: Can I Be Me (M)

Directed by: Nick Broomfield, Rudi Dolezal

Starring: Whitney Houston, Bobbi Kristina Brown, Bobby Brown

Three stars

Review by Julian Wright

In cinemas now