Review / ‘Whitney: Can I Be Me’ (M) ***

WATCHING British documentarist Nick Broomfield’s treatment of the life of singer Whitney Houston built in my mind a melange of ideas that more than anything else left me with a feeling of anger.

How, I wondered, might an American documentarist have dealt with the same core topic?

How might things have been different if this lovely voice had gone along the professional direction followed by so many wonderful black women singing from the classical repertoire? What judgement has history passed on the folk, mostly black, whose exploitation led her along paths that her judgement could not recognise.

Houston fans will revel in the sound of her concert performances. They might weep a little at the shots showing her physical degeneration caused by drugs. Or at interviews with people whose influences figured prominently in her life for good or evil (and that’s not too strong a word).

Broomfield is a no-holds-barred documentarist. Anybody who saw his two films about sex-worker Aileen Wuornos, exploited beyond her ability to cope, executed in 2002 for murdering abusive clients including a cop, will remember his compassion aligned with honesty about the influences that dragged her down.

Whitney’s will left her estate, estimated to be $US250 million, to her only child who, in similar circumstances to her mother, died at age 22. After watching Broomfield’s film, you’d have to wonder “was it worth it?” for either of them.

Ex-husband rapper Bobby Brown now has a new wife and children. The father whom Whitney loved from childhood died before a court action seeking big money from her was heard. And Robyn Crawford, who ingratiated herself into Whitney’s life as her long-term executive assistant, is now in a lesbian relationship and has twins. Figure that one out if you can.

At Palace Electric, Capitol 6 and Hoyts Belconnen

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