Hard upon the recent Nick Broomfield doc Let Me Be Me comes another examination of the short, soulful life of Whitney Houston.
This time, it’s film maker Kevin MacDonald directing, painstakingly building up a portrait of the singer through searching interviews with family, friends and co-workers. Perhaps it’s the method behind all this that’s even more interesting than Whitney herself – you constantly feel yourself doubting the stories, wondering if we’ll ever to get to a “truth” about Whitney.
There are facts, of course, but these don’t tell the story, nor explain it – how Whitney went from pure pop princess to drug-addled diva and died in a bath tub aged 48.
I’m not going to spoil it, but there are revelations here, although even the most shocking of these – sexual abuse at the hands of a relative – doesn’t really help explain anything. While MacDonald searched for truth, we’re left admiring the voice and the cheekbones, the prettiness and the packaging of a cross-over star.
We also delve into the racial politics that weighed heavily on her, and marvel at the demands of fame, at how the extended family become dependants, forced into a strangely unhealthy situation, how mother and father are driven apart and bitterness sets in like an impenetrable, immovable toxic smog.
I’d have liked a bit more joy, more of a sense of the uplift in her music and the effect of her voice and status as an artist. Because, although this is far from a music doc and Whitney’s far from an era-defining artist, you really come out remembering the songs – what’s your favourite Whitney track? So Emotional? or How Will I Know? Both might have been apt subtitles for this dour, sad, sobering look at a bright life burning out.