The Whitney Houston documentary "Whitney," directed by Kevin Macdonald, had its world premiere 2018 Cannes Film Festival on May 16. Most of the reviews for "Whitney" have been positive, with the film getting praise for not being a sugar-coated promotional vehicle, but instead taking an investigative look into the real person behind the superstar image. Roadside Attractions and Miramax Films will release the documentary in select cinemas on July 6.
"Whitney" is the first documentary about Whitney Houston that is officially sanctioned by her estate. The movie is drawing inevitable comparisons to the 2017 Showtime documentary "Whitney: Can I Be Me," directed by Nick Broomfield. Film critics are noting that "Whitney" is the better documentary because it has the participation of the late singer's family members (including her mother Cissy and brothers Gary and Michael) and Whitney's ex-husband Bobby Brown, who was married to Whitney from 1992 to 2007. Whitney died in 2012 at the age of 48.
David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter said in his "Whitney" review that "while the documentary never feels sanitized, the tone overall is one of respect and empathy." In his review of "Whitney," Owen Gleiberman of Variety commented: "The film captures the quality that made Whitney Houston magical, but more than that it puts together the warring sides of her soul."
The movie is also making headlines for revealing the allegation that Whitney and her brother Gary were abused as children by the late Dee Dee Warwick, the sister of Houston family cousin Dionne Warwick. Dee Dee Warwick died in 2008, so her side of the story can't be heard. "Whitney" director Macdonald told Deadline that he chose to include the abuse allegations in the film because multiple people, including Gary Houston (one of the alleged victims), voluntarily spoke about it on the record and named Dee Dee Warwick as the alleged abuser. According to reviews of the movie, several people close to Whitney believe that the trauma of the abuse and other family problems were the underlying reasons for her self-destructive behavior.
In his interview with Deadline, Macdonald talked about the challenges and frustrations in making the film. He said that he believed that many of the people interviewed for the documentary either lied or told conflicting stories about Houston and their role in possibly enabling her problems. Macdonald said, "I think that is the key to why people find it hard to talk about her honestly—so many people around her feel guilty, and they’re not prepared yet, in their own lives, to kind of acknowledge that or admit that. That’s the feeling that comes off from them; there’s a lot of guilt."