Whitney: Can I Be Me

Whitney: Can I Be Me

(2017)

BAFTA-winning documentarian Nick Broomfield and music video director Rudi Dolezal trace the forces that contributed to Whitney Houston's shortened career.... More

Whether it be racism, religion, drugs, sexuality, self-doubt, gossip, rivalry, insufficient training, the demands of parents and the industry, a troubled marriage playing out in headlines, or the inevitable toll those stresses take from so muscular and passionate a singer, the directors leave nothing unturned. They create a picture of a remarkable woman who needed more help than she received and provide a wholly committed exploration of talent given and taken away, in an era obsessed with how that talent lives when the stage lights go down.Hide

  • Directed by Nick Broomfield ('Kurt & Courtney', 'Tales of the Grim Sleeper', 'Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer'), Rudi Dolezal ('Freddie Mercury, the Untold Story', 'Sarah Brightman: Harem - A Desert Fantasy')

    Starring Whitney Houston

    Written by Nick Broomfield

    • Documentary, Music
    • 100mins
    • Rating: M Drug use & offensive language
    • USA, UK

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Flicks Review

Still probably best known over a decade later as the controversial documentary director of Kurt & Courtney and Biggie & Tupac, Nick Broomfield finds himself on seemingly familiar turf (alongside co-director Rudi Dolezal) with this look inside the turbulent, tragically short life of Whitney Houston.... More

While there’s plenty of tabloid-ready subject matter to dive into, this resists the urge to muck-rake or wildly speculate that those previous films may suggest. That may be partly due to Houston’s drug use being well documented at this point, with plenty of close friends and associates happy to acknowledge its presence throughout her life (if a little light on specifics). And absent a lurid mystery to solve, Houston’s demise having also been exhaustively covered, Broomfield doesn’t clutch at investigative straws or annoyingly cast himself as truth-seeker.

Instead, Can I Be Me comprises a more traditional blend of talking heads and archival footage to chart the life of its subject. The latter runs the gamut from church performances in Houston’s teens to music awards, TV interviews, and chat shows (including a snippet of her time being crudely pestered by gross sleaze Serge Gainsbourg on French TV). Most revealing are private clips depicting Houston’s relationship with Bobby Brown, and all access footage of her final European tour - illustrating the unhealthiness of that toxic pairing and starkly depicting Houston’s descent into full-blown addiction.

Like Houston herself, Can I Be Me never quite stops to enjoy her success. There’s always something going on in the background, like her booing by the black music community at the 1988 Soul Train Music Awards, or the increasingly strained relationship with lifelong friend Robyn Crawford, a key figure in her inner circle. This means plenty to work with, but little to uncover, even Crawford’s relationship with Houston receiving the same conjecture here it has had elsewhere. But while it may not be revelatory, Can I Be Me is still a weepy, watchable portrait of a life running off the rails.Hide


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The Press Reviews

  • "Whitney: 'Can I Be Me'" has no conspiracies to uncover. It just has a story to tell, and it does that incredibly compellingly. Full Review

  • Heavy on glib generalizations but light on sharp insights or juicy revelations. Full Review

  • Although it offers an astute analysis of how Clive Davis tailored Houston's sound and image to appeal to a white audience ... the film doesn't use enough of Houston's music. Full Review

  • Whitney 'Can I Be Me' delivers yet another tragic lesson in the toxic mix of fame and talent and children: it should be required viewing for all those who seek to follow this diva's path to fame and fortune. Full Review

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