“It will take an act of Congress to keep this woman from becoming a mega-star.” So sayeth Merv Griffin as he introduced a then-unknown Whitney Houston to his legion of TV viewers. Little did the prescient talk show host know that her meteoric rise would end in suicide by substance abuse. Two takeaways, one humorous, the other tragic: Cissy Houston named her daughter after Whitney Blake, the alabaster-skinned actress who played a slave-owner of sorts on TV’s Hazel. As for the tragic reveal, let’s say there’s good reason why Aunt Dionne Warwicke turned down an invite for a talking-head testimonial. Kevin Macdonald’s snorts-and-all documentary buckles only twice, around a series of bridging montages, the overt symbolism of which floats too close to the surface. (How many shots of Nancy “Just Say No” Reagan did we need to establish a time frame?) For much of its two-hour running time, we watch the life slowly being sucked out of a legend; the last thirty-minutes are consumed by ineffability.
Length: 2 hours