A pop icon gone too soon, Whitney Houston went from being a pop princess to a performing laughing stock due to her drug-related addiction but the face Whitney choose to show to the outside world was one to cover the turmoil her life was in, In Whitney: Can I Be Me the facade has finally been dropped to humanise a woman who wanted to please those closest to her.
Co-director Nick Broomfield has made a name for himself over the years as a documentary maker who relentlessly pursues his interview subjects with conspiracy theories at the very heart of his questioning. From his project on Biggie and Tupac were suggestions that Suge Knight was responsible for both rappers murders to the untimely death of Kurt Cobain and the allegations that Courtney Love was in some way involved. This tender and tragically revealing documentary comes at Whitney’s story with the utmost respect for the artist and those that were willing to come forward with their own accounts of their time in the presence of a woman with an almighty voice.
Gathering a handful of friends, her brothers, band members, her closest aides and even a British member of her security who clearly adored Huston, the one noticeable absence came in the form of Whitney’s friend from childhood who was by her side for many years, Robyn Crawford. Surprisingly Broomfield delves into the heart of Houston’s sexuality, touchingly revealing the intimate relationship Houston had with Crawford, her Mother, Cissy Houston, a god fearing woman, constant refusal to accept her daughter’s bisexuality and the constant battle of coming in between the feuding Bobby Brown and Crawford who hated each other resulting in Whitney losing the only friend who could have probably saved her life.
Piecing together Whitney’s early life from the streets of Newark, her rise to the dizzying heights of fame and the struggles that came with that rise, confessions come from her brothers that she would regular take drugs with Whitney as a child are heartbreakingly yet subtly shocking. On the very night, she was booed at the Soul Train Awards for “not being black enough”, which devastated her to her core, she met bad boy Bobby Brown and the rest is history.
Home videos are an integral piece of constant disclosure of the playful, witty and loving person Whitney was behind the lens of fame from the unvarying affection she would show Bobby, the role playing and impersonations of the likes of Ike and Tina Turner to the fiercely protective and loving mother she was with Bobbi Kristina.
Rudi Dolezal obtains a co-directing credit here for his never before seen footage of an uncompleted documentary which was shot during her 1999 tour. Although clearly ravaged by the effects of her narcotic addiction we witness Whitney on supersonic form as she belts out her hits like her life depended on it, to see this woman on the verge of exhaustion night after night compels to reach out and shake her into her senses. During these emotionally draining performances, a young Bobbi Kristina would come out and join her mother on stage, resulting in the realisation that this story comes to a spine-chillingly tragic ending.
Whitney: Can I Be Me is tenderly intimate, poignant and fascinating, a respectful exploration of the human side of a pop icon we rarely got to see, Full of nostalgia, it’ll make your heart sing and your lips smile before it tragically breaks your heart.
Whitney: Can I Be Me is out in cinemas June 16.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal
STARS: Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Cissy Houston
RUNTIME: 105 Mins