Home Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody

Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody (12A)

Cast: Nafessa Williams, Naomi Ackie, Clarke Peters, Ashton Sanders, Stanley Tucci
Genre: Drama
Author(s): Anthony McCarten
Director: Kasi Lemmons
Release Date: 26/12/2022
Running Time: 144mins
Country: US
Year: 2022

Whitney Houston rises from humble beginnings, proudly singing in church alongside her mother Cissy until she catches the eye of influential record producer Clive Davis. He moulds Whitney into a global icon and she embraces her new found independence, which creates an emotional divide between the singer and her father parents. Best friend and assistant Robyn Crawford provides Whitney with support as she navigates the media spotlight, falls in love with Bobby Brown and raises a daughter.


LondonNet Film Review

Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody (12A) Film Review from LondonNet

In the summer of 1987, shortly before cinema audiences had the time of their lives with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing, Whitney Houston bopped to the summit of singles charts around the globe with her infectious anthem I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me). The world danced with the fresh-faced 23-year-old R&B diva, who was midway through a record-breaking streak of seven consecutive number one singles in America – a feat unequalled to this day – as discontent simmered among some fans about her cultural responsibilities as a black superstar in a predominantly white pop world…

“A common criticism of you is that your music isn’t black enough,” a radio host remarks in director Kasi Lemmons’ glossy biopic, which charts the singer’s fortunes from the pews of New Hope Baptist Church to her accidental drowning in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills. “I don’t know how to sing black and I don’t know how to sing white either,” counters Houston, portrayed with fiery intensity by London-born actress Naomi Ackie. “I know how to sing.”

Made with the blessing of the singer’s estate and her mentor Clive Davis, Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody sings to the rafters, punctuated by impeccably lip-synced performances of greatest hits and her soaring rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner at the 1991 Super Bowl in Florida. A largely chronological script penned by Anthony McCarten, screenwriter of Bohemian Rhapsody, skips from 1983 New Jersey where Whitney (Ackie) performs in the choir directed by her mother Cissy (Tamara Tunie) to her first encounter with influential record producer Clive Davis (Stanley Tucci). “I think I may have just heard the greatest voice of her generation,” he gushes, signing Whitney to Arista Records.

She subsequently hires best friend and lover Robyn Crawford (Nafessa Williams) as her creative director (“I want someone I can trust completely. You’re the only one!”), appoints her father John (Clarke Peters) as head of her management company Nippy, Inc. and conducts a very public romance with Bobby Brown (Ashton Sanders).

Bookmarked by a recreation of the singer’s 1994 appearance at the American Music Awards (widely considered her greatest live performance), Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody is a rousing and reverential celebration that doesn’t airbrush history. Whitney’s romance with Crawford is depicted explicitly for the first time and John Houston’s money-related disputes with his daughter light the fuse on fiery on-screen exchanges. “You work for me,” she curtly reminds him. McCarten’s script is peppered with melodic dialogue (“I’m exhausted. All black women are exhausted”) as Ackie confidently surfs crashing emotional waves similar to yesteryear’s musical biopic The United States Vs Billie Holiday. If you wanna feel the heat of Houston’s rise to glory, Lemmons’ picture simmers beautifully.

– Sarah Lee


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