The Highs and Lows of “Whitney”

by Tyler Young

YaYa DaCosta, Angela Bassett and Deborah Cox are an incredible force on the small screen. Saturday night’s premiere of Whitney showcased the highs and lows of the cultural phenomenon known as the late, Whitney Houston. The biopic follows the flawed side of Whitney and her relationship with Bobby Brown that fans often speculated about in her early career.

For years, their whirlwind romance was on display. The photos in the media seemed to paint a portrait of black love that eventually became a circus. From the extramarital affairs, low album sales to the drugs, Bobby has often been villainized. Based on the Lifetime story, he was just a young man hopelessly in love with a superstar.
Whitney depicted only a short period of the legend’s life starting in 1989 when she met Bobby, the “Prince of R&B” at the 1989 Soul Train Music Awards. In the biopic, Brown (played by Arlen Escarpeta) falls deeply and madly in love with the “Greatest Love of All” singer. His career is at it’s pinnacle while she is also near her own peak. From the jump, Whitney’s drug use is addressed. Contrary to popular belief, the story notes that Bobby was clean and a firm believer that drug use could harm his career. Pretty ironic.

As time moves on in the story, the two are animals in the bedroom and extremely crazy about one another. Whitney asks Bobby to slow their relationship down to allow it to fully blossom. Bobby, unsatisfied with her request distances himself. The two separated for a short period and returned to a romance stronger than ever. Medicating herself with drugs to pacify the pains of being a superstar, Bobby reassures Whitney that his ex-girlfriends and three children will not come between them.

The biopic also touches on how Whitney’s family disapproved of the relationship.
Her family notes that Bobby is merely a playboy that will bring more heartache and only become the downfall of what she has worked so hard for. Whitney’s career takes off with the success of The Bodyguard while Bobby’s music gradually begins to fade. According to the film, the stress of the movie causes Whitney’s miscarriage. This is where we see a breakout performance by DaCosta, ripped to shreds by the loss of the baby. Bobby rushes to his damsel, reassuring her that they would have a happy ending.

After the marriage and birth of their daughter, Bobbi Kristina, Whitney gets back on the road and Bobby seemingly becomes more of a groupie than a husband. According to the story, Brown spent much time supporting Whitney that his own career suffered. The drug use and alcohol eventually transfers from Bobby to Whitney, causing him to publicly lash out.

At this stage of the game, Whitney is America’s sweetheart and Bobby soon became known as her deadweight.

Because it is a made for TV film, the movie moved relatively quickly. With the blink of an eye, Bobby becomes a druggie, manwhore while Whitney continues to do what she does best; sing. After seeing him in bed with another woman, Whitney hits an all-time low. The film ends with
Whitney drug use hitting the tabloids, courtesy of Bobby, causing her to want out of the relationship. We never seem them officially break it off. Based on her final performance of “I Will Always Love You”, Whitney has her parting words while Bobby gets the message backstage.

For her directorial debut, Bassett served up a fine cast and story. Deborah Cox is absolutely phenomenal. The songstress was a breakout in the late 90’s, unfortunately we didn’t hear much from her as time went on. She covered all of Whitney’s music in the biopic, demonstrating a wide vocal range just as we remember from one of the greatest voices of all-time. Hollywood producers should be knocking on Yaya’s door for more roles. She embodied the Whitney that fans knew and loved, even showing off the sexual side often untold.

So was it nostalgic or detrimental to her legacy? Depends on who you ask. No one is perfect and we saw this with Whitney’s real life decline as time moved on. It was only a matter of time before it all played out in film. The real question is, how will Bobbi Kristina take it? With initial reports of the film, she expressed her disapproval, mainly because she could not be in it.

It is safe to say that Lifetime did a great job. Maybe Wendy Williams can learn a few things from Angela Bassett. Lest we not forget, Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B. Lifetime, you have officially redeemed yourself.

Photo Credit: Lifetime

Tyler Young is an On-Air Morning News Producer and blogger in Charlotte, N.C. She is a proud country girl from a small town in South Carolina. In Tyler’s free time you’ll catch her giving back to the community, writing or watching A Different World reruns. Follow Tyler on Twitter: @sheistyler and at