Saving All Her Love (Film Thoughts: Whitney)

large_whitneyWhen I saw ads for ‘Whitney,” I thought to myself: didn’t I see this film before? Well, it turns out I was kinda right – there was an earlier documentary about her life, and I remember it was on Showtime. This is a different one (there are always competing ones, I just saw today that there is another Christopher Robin film) and is directed by Kevin Anderson. I didn’t know if I wanted to see this, but there was an LA heatwave, and two hours inside the movie theater sounded good.

I am glad I did – this was a well-done take on her life. Just like the earlier documentary, it focuses on the road to her demise – how did it get there, what really happened, etc – and her life here is as sad. (An older lady sitting behind me probably uttered ‘So sad’ more than a dozen times) Houston was such a special woman, with a God-given voice that touched hearts, and to this day I can and do listen to her songs regularly. Ultimately, like all great artists, she had a troubled soul, and in the end was unable to fight her demons. And those demons would be drugs, and poor life choices – entrusting her matters to the wrong people (His father squandered her millions, for example)  Add to that her inability to accept her sexual orientation (her hairdresser said she was definitely bisexual) and you have got the worst recipe for a disastrous life. The big reveal in this piece is the revelation that she and her brothers were sexually molester by her aunt, the singer Dee Dee Warwick, and unfortunately, that’s just a small footnote in a life full of triumphs and tragedy. The film doesn’t dwell much on her artistry – that’s probably a film still waiting to happen – but I can imagine it is hard not to focus on the salacious matters of her life. This film, even as it clocks at 120 minutes, is never boring because Whitney is never boring, and that is what makes her, and this film, special.

Ghosts Of A Song (Music Thoughts: I Will Always Love You, Deborah Cox)

2E7810C30-9BE8-4655-AA8A8145E0DF7FDEDeborah Cox’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ is her companion EP to her starring role as Rachel Marron in the American production of ‘The Bodyguard.’  The production has yet to hit Broadway, but started at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey and is currently touring – not a good sign if you ask me. I saw the show in London a few years back and while I had reservations about the show in general (just another jukebox musical) I was floored by Heather Headley’s performance and thought she made the role, and more importantly, the songs as her own. To this day, I still play Headley’s version of ‘Run to You,’ and I hear Heather, not Whitney, and that’s a tough feat to accomplish.

This makes it doubly difficult for Cox. For me she needs to get over the ghost of Headley, and the larger ghost of Whitney. Rachel Marron is an iconic role, and the singing part is its heart – you either put a mark or you don’t. Cox sings these songs effectively, and has more than enough sass in her singing. One cannot say that these songs are not in good hands. Ultimately, the ghosts haunt her. Whitney had the charm and chops that made these songs hers, and Cox’s versions pale. They are slightly better than karaoke, and probably better than American Idol, but still, they’re no Whitney. And the other thing she lacks is Headley’s theatricality. With Headley, I sense a character, a dramatic situation, a story  arc in the songs that surpassed even Whitney’s versions. So for me, Cox comes as a third choice. But looking at the top two, third choice here is not a losing spot .