Review – Whitney: Can I Be Me
This documentary wasn’t just your normal superstar backstory, this was a story about a woman’s journey through self-doubt, a controlling family, addiction and racism.
Nick Broomfield’s documentary of Whitney Houston is truly riveting and captivating, unlike any documentary I’ve ever seen. There were a number of never before seen home videos of Whitney starting out singing with her mum, Cissy Houston, in church, Whitney’s early interviews and of her backstage. There were also a number of interviews from people close to her where it was really interesting to hear what they saw and how she spiralled out of control.
She paved the way for African Americans. We wouldn’t have people like Beyonce if it wasn’t for Whitney, but back when she was starting out she was hated by her African American community because they thought white Amercia had basically taken her away and moulded her into a white American popstar singing pop as opposed to what African Americans wanted to hear: RNB. She was even booed on stage at Soul Train which really affected her and was something she would never get over.
The documentary really portrayed all the things that happened to her and what evidently killed her. The booing; the moulding; her now trying to find herself and her not being herself, the controlling mother who wanted Whitney’s career and credited her daughter’s success to herself; the father who loved her dearly but in the end wanted Whitney to pay him over 100 million dollars while he was lying on his death bad; the marriage breakdown of two addicts; Bobbi Brown and Whitney; his cheating; her not wanting to disappoint god or anyone around her: all these things are attributed to her addiction which lead to her death. So many of the interviews said she died from a broken heart. She wasn’t being herself. Everyone had moulded her into this money making machine, depending on her to pay their bills. She had so much self doubt and wanted so much for people to like her that she never truly believed she deserved this success.
I always thought the addiction started with Bobbi Brown, but it didn’t, it started when she was in her teens. Her brothers gave her the illegal substances the family was ridden with drugs and no one focused on that from the beginning so addictions formed. She no longer used for fun: it was to survive.
There is a one scene near the end showing Whitney walking off stage before an encore, bawling her eyes out, the crowd screaming her name, but she didn’t care. She was lonely and heartbroken – she had no close friends, except for a woman named Robyn that everyone thought she was in lesbian relationship with, and then Bobbi Brown pushed Robyn away. No one knows if Whitney was a lesbian, but if she was, she was she wasn’t allowed to be.
It was a truly remarkable documentary, delivering intimate insights into why Whitney always asked ‘Can I Be Me’ hence the title, I really want people to watch this. It shows the truth behind fame and fortune that a lot people don’t see.
Written by Christina Cavaleri
More by Art Smitten
With the arts industry still in lockdown and premieres on-hold, Art Smitten is continuing to present a retrospective of our favourite releases, exhibitions and otherwise […]