Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody – Review

Laura Pietrzak

This is how you do a biopic

One of the long awaited and eagerly anticipated releases of 2022 was “Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody”. Directed by Kasi Lemmons, with the screenplay written by Anthony McCarten – writer of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the movie was a poignant and entertaining biopic of the late singer’s life and rise to fame. The movie is the first film based on the star’s life to be approved by Whitney’s family; with its depiction of Whitney’s life being refined and respectful.  

Musical dramas and biopics may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and I didn’t think they were mine, but this movie was a touching and enjoyable cinematic experience; and while I did not grow up with Whitney Houston, I felt that this film did her justice, and lets Whitney Houston be remembered in a positive way and maintain her legacy as a powerful and iconic singer while also humanising her character. 

A common criticism of the film that I have seen, is that the movie focuses on Whitney’s career and rapid rise to fame, more than her personal life. I believe that the film delivered a perfect balance of both sides of Whitney’s life, because she deserves to be remembered for her talent and contribution to the music world and her continued impact on pop culture, rather than the personal struggles she faced. I enjoyed that the film wasn’t a melodramatic copy and paste of a Wikipedia article of Whitney Houston’s life; but rather was a celebration of her life and legacy.  

There are many aspects of the film that deserve significant praise; the main one being the tasteful and perfect casting of Naomi Ackie to portray Whitney. While critics argue that there are other actresses who look more like Whitney, and should have been cast, I believe that Naomi’s portrayal of Whitney was to put it simply; outstanding. Ackie flawlessly recreates Whitney’s speaking voice and captures her mannerisms in a way that makes the viewers feel like we are watching Whitney again. It is impossible to fully capture Whitney’s essence, yet I believe that there is nobody who could have done it better than Ackie. She provides a masterful performance, one that leaves us in awe, and is certainly worthy of an award. 

As expected, the soundtrack for the movie was phenomenal, of course, consisting mainly of Whitney’s most unforgettable and beloved hits like “I Have Nothing” or “How Will I Know”. It was well crafted to bring the screenplay and drama to a whole other level. In my opinion, some of the best scenes in the whole film are the ones of Whitney delivering a tear-jerking and nail-biting performance of her songs. 

The film makes the audience fall in love with Whitney; her voice, and story and makes us grieve her untimely death and the tragedy that it was in modern pop culture. 

If you plan to see it, prepare mentally beforehand; remember to bring tissues, and perhaps an extra jumper, because you will be leaving the cinema with tears of emotion and goosebumps! 

Laura Pietrzak

Image Credit: Sony