Beyond ‘Whitney:’ 5 TV Music-Themed Movies We Loved

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Whitney’ star Suzzanne Douglas talks cautionary tales, close encounter with Cissy Houston.

Without calling out Angela Bassett by name, Whitney Houston’s family condemned the newbie director of the Lifetime biopic “Whitney,” which airs tonight, and asked the singer’s fans to brace themselves for the worst. Pat Houston, the president of the Whitney Houston Estate and the singer’s sister-in-law and former manager, released the statement regarding the biopic on the official Whitney Houston website, saying she was motivated to reiterate her objections to the film after her daughter wondered how Bassett, who co-starred with Whitney Houston in “Waiting to Exhale” and claimed to a be a friend, would direct a movie “that seems so unloving.” In the statement, Houston says that “misrepresenting the term friendship to advance an agenda is not only disrespectful and dishonest but a slap in the face to her true and loyal friends … Complicating the encounter was Houston’s vocal opposition to “Whitney,” debuting Saturday at 8 p.m. and focusing on her daughter’s volatile relationship with Bobby Brown and her escalating drug use. (“Please, please let her rest,” Houston pleaded last year.) A longtime Maplewood resident who appeared opposite “Whitney” director Angela Bassett in “How Stella Got Her Grove Back,” starred in the long-running WB sitcom “The Parent ‘Hood” and is an accomplished jazz vocalist (suzzannedouglas.com), Douglas quickly changed tack. “Just as a mother, I’m thinking to myself, if I had lost my most precious gift, my daughter, how would that make me feel?,” she recalls in a phone interview Thursday. “So I wanted, out of respect, her just to see me as a fan. As we once again enter a season of bereavement and the strategic timing so close to the anniversary of Whitney’s death, this is a disappointment that any of us who loved her could do without.

As I extended my hand, I simply said, ‘Thank you for your work.'” Houston had already made her objections known when Douglas was cast in the role last summer, but the family’s opposition did not — could not, she says — weigh on her mind. “As an actor, it’s not my place to allow the outside world to influence what I’m doing in a scene with my fellow actors,” she says. She said the movie, directed by Oscar-nominated actress Angela Bassett, was made without the family’s blessing and against the wishes of her mother. “If you watch this movie, watch it knowing that Lifetime is notorious for making bad biopics of deceased celebrities and brace yourself for the worst,” Pat Houston wrote.

She said she didn’t think it entered the minds of anyone involved with the project that “what lifts up one person in the headlines may in fact destroy another.” A Lifetime representative said Saturday the network had no comment. In a statement released by Lifetime last year, she said, “I have such regard for both Whitney’s and Bobby’s amazing talents and accomplishments and I feel a responsibility in the telling of their story.” The Whitney biopic depicts the turbulent relationship between the singer and fellow pop star Bobby Brown. Instead, the movie glosses over her legacy and her talent by focusing the 90-minute running time almost entirely on her relationship with R&B singer Bobby Brown.

My daughter came home from high school yesterday and shared with me inquiries she had endured from her peers and teachers about the upcoming TV movie about her aunt Whitney. One can only imagine how all that become heightened when you’re at a certain level of celebrity.” At that time in her daughter’s life, Douglas says, Cissy was struggling with the prospect of losing her daughter emotionally, psychologically and physically. “I can only imagine that she may have wanted a different sort of life for her. I share with you the thoughts I shared with my daughter yesterday – that there is often a fine line that separates elevation and degradation in the industry. There’s a tug and pull within Cissy of how to allow her daughter to be her own woman, and at the same time wanting to protect her children from the big bad world.” Bassett calls the film a cautionary tale, and while “Whitney” ends just as her drug problems and troubled marriage are becoming tabloid fodder (and the movie makes no mention of the fact that her chronic cocaine use contributed to her 2012 drowning death), Douglas says that’s part of the point — that seemingly small decisions can have a ripple effect. “I tell young people all the time, the choices you make now, in a fleeting moment, will determine the rest of your life.

Pat said Cissy had asked specifically for the Whitney movie not to be made. “We have dealt with her every emotion from the day she was born until the day she died, which gives us absolute position and absolute authority as a family to feel the way we do about her legacy,” Pat said. “We matter. I don’t think it ever entered their minds that they were assaulting the legacy of another individual; they just want the job or the opportunity to shine. But to do so in such an incredible way, to go after someone who cannot correct what you get wrong, someone who – like so many people, and especially women – struggled to hold up their humanity and live with dignity despite their personal challenges, is wrong. Why deny selected members of the family an advanced copy of the film?” The movie stars Arlen Escarpetas as Bobby and Suzzanne Douglas as Whitney’s mother, while singer Deborah Cox provides the pop star’s singing voice. In fact, the only sign that Whitney Houston was successful in any form before she met Brown is that briefly, in one scene at her birthday party, she and Brown walk by a case full of trophies and awards. “People tired of seeing me getting prizes,” Houston says when she first meets Brown. “I don’t blame ’em.

The plot of the story, because it picks up with Brown, assumes that the viewer already knows about Houston’s success, already knows her best hits, already knows that she is a bigger, better, more memorable star than Bobby Brown could ever be. But since the producers could not secure the rights to either Houston or Brown’s vocals, they were forced to use imitators as backing vocals for the actors to lip-sync to.

Placing Houston’s relationship with Brown at the center of the film could have worked, but the movie refuses to engage with the truth of that relationship. Never would Whitney allow her story to be told by an inexperienced team and how naive of anyone to think otherwise, unless you’re caught up in illusions of grandeur that you can just do anything and people will accept it. Houston’s mother spoke out against the movie in November telling Entertainment Tonight that “Lifetime has chosen to go ahead with the movie about Whitney in spite of my family’s objections. In the spirit of Whitney’s “I Go To The Rock”: “On Christ the solid rock I stand.. all other ground is sinking sand.” Let’s just be peaceful in all of this. In the movie, Houston and Bobby have several conversations about what will happen once their baby is born- — in that they agree that neither of them will tour so that they can spend time together as a normal couple.

That transitions, as Houston’s fame grows, to both of them going on her tour, but when Brown decides that he isn’t getting enough attention, he leaves. That’s not,however, how the pair’s real relationship was. “There was infidelity in the marriage, yes, on both parts,” Bobby Brown told Access Hollywood’s Shawn Robinson about their real relationship. “Both of us cheated on each other, period. I just think when two people that love each other as much as we loved each other, when they start drifting apart, different people come into the situation, into the scenario, and we make mistakes. Brown and Houston were married for 15 years in a union that graced the cover of tabloids over and over and over again. “He was my drug,” Houston told Oprah Winfrey in a widely publicized 2009 interview. “I didn’t do anything without him.

No matter what, we did it together.” Notably, the two did crack together Despite Houston’s famous 2000 interview with Diane Sawyer where she dramatically declares that “We don’t do crack. No one can know everything that happened in Houston and Brown’s relationship, save Brown himself, but we do know that they fought, that they did drugs together, and that in 2003 police responded to a domestic-violence 911 call at their Georgia home and found Houston with a bruised cheek and a cut lip. Lifetime bills itself as television for women, but the channel frequently does disservice to actual, complicated women who lived and did great things and sometimes had huge failings.

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