‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ review: beautiful, emotional and intense biopic.

Naomi Ackie as Whitney Houston in the film I Wanna Dance With Somebody.
© Sony Pictures

Music legend and icon Whitney Houston graced our cinema screens last month in the new biopic. The film is produced by Anthony McCarten, who made Bohemian Rhapsody the, highest-grossing music biopic ever. With McCarten having his shot creating an adaptation on Houston’s life, there was some excitement and eagerness amongst her fans.

The 144-minute tribute to Whitney Houston was an effortless watch. Straight from the beginning, hearing Whitney’s incredible vocals, her closeted relationship and her home life, viewers were sure to be entertained. Houston was a typical teenager with big aspirations, allowing the film to be relatable for many. From start to finish watching, the British actor Naomi Ackie exhibits Houston’s voice growth from the choir girl to her first performance on tv. 

The film dives into extensive themes about the singer’s life: discussing Whitney’s dark and belittling relationship with Bobby Brown, family life, drug addiction and her former closeted lover and best friend, Robyn Crawford. The film shows in detail the singer’s career disintegrating due to her Father controlling her money and shows the tragedy of Bobby Brown not being faithful or loyal to her and how this series of events led to her dependency on drugs. Clive Davis, played by Stanley Tucci, recreated Davis’ character, which I sympathized with. The record producer, who was close to the singer throughout her career, was portrayed beautifully. The touching and heart-breaking performance by Nafessa Williams was outstanding and credible, along with staggering performances from Tamara Tunie and Clarke Peters.

The way Naomi Ackie portrayed Whitney was phenomenal. Naomi’s storytelling was so believable you started to think she was the real Whitney Houston. As described many times in the film, ‘the greatest voice of all time’, Houston became a global artist at a young age, gaining fame ever so quickly. As a young black girl, she achieved mainstream success. People called Whitney Houston’s music ‘not black enough’ as she received more of a welcome from a white audience than a black audience.

The iconic performances are delivered with skill throughout in the film. While singing the National Anthem at the Superbowl in 1991, she came out in her sweats, portraying her unique character through both her outside and her voice. It was just next-level legendary. The singer sang a melody of her famous and breathtakingly astonishing songs at the American Music Awards, a scene which left me speechless. Her comeback performance on Oprah Winfrey was something else. The confidence she got back when the audience cheered her on felt powerful and emotional; it felt like I was watching Whitney Houston in the flesh.

The film did shy away from Whitney’s relationship with Robyn. It didn’t dive into her exploring her sexuality and being in the spotlight. There was also little explanation for the reason she started using drugs, was it for a distraction? Too much work and stress? Other unanswered questions from the film include. How was her music not ‘black enough’ even though her music was R&B and gospel? Could Whitney Houston have been the LGBTQ+ icon we didn’t know we had or need? Even with these unanswered questions, the execution and emotional performance from Naomi Ackie did not let the audience down.

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