Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody [Grade: 90.42%]

Director: Kasi Lemmons

Story By: Anthony McCarten

Cast: Naomi Ackie, Clarke Peters, Tamara Tunie, Nafessa Williams, Ashton Sanders, and Stanley Tucci

* * *

If the perfect biopic to serve as the finale to all biopics for a person was a biopic… 

* * *

Theme & Story: A

Pacing: A-

Character: A

Overall “Paper” Score: A

* * *

Entertainment Factors

General Public: Worth the $$$

Whitney Houston Fans: Worth the $$$

Biopic Fans: Worth the $$$

Experience Seekers (Music & Drama/Tea Moments): Interesting Enough

Overall “Viewing Experience” Score: Interesting Enough

* * *


1. Another installment into the life of Whitney Houston with a focus on her inner quest for definitions of unapologetic, real and trusting love. This is I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

The messaging was not only executed well, but was clear as day—What does/can real, trusting, and unapologetic love look and feel like for different people? 

The strength of the biopic for me were Acts Two and Three. I found the last 2/3 of the film to be curated well to hone in on the theme through the main character and her music/music choices. 👍🏾👍🏾

Where the biopic could’ve used a little more work for me as in Act One—specifically the first half of Act One. Based on all of the biopics and documentaries out there of Whitney, it felt clear that one particular element of the story was rushed due to a lack of fully flushed out information. 🤷🏾‍♂️

2. I LOVE Ashton Sanders in this role…but that Soul Train performance on stage… … not so much… 👀👀

3. Oh, Ackie had the speaking voice and mannerisms DOWN! 👍🏾👍🏾

4. Not that Jermaine Jackson moment! 🫢😂

5. This biopic has a runtime of 130 minutes, and the music and memorable moments aren’t the only things that keeps you hooked from beginning to end…it’s the performances. All of them. 👍🏾

However, I do think the film rushes a little in the first half of Act One in regards to Whitney’s friendship with Robyn. I mean, there is one specific scene when the “red car drives off” that felt like it came out of nowhere. I was like, “damn… hold up, how did we get here so fast?” 🤨

6. Baby, Ricky in the background during that medley performance. 😂❤️

7. Wait a min “autographs.” 🫢

8. “I’m an open book, Whitney…”🫢

9. I liked how they strategically spliced the movie and Oprah moments. 👍🏾

10. Every character was absolutely engaging. I loved them all. I mean, my goodness. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

Ackie was so embodying, as was Sanders’ interpretation of Bobby Brown, and then their interactions together. Like MY GOODNESS! 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

And then Mr. Stanley Tucci! He came and did what needed to be done. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

Thematically, each character held their own in followthrough. Ackie as Whitney struggling with and navigating the different forms of love in her life—family, husband, friend, Clive, the world… Furthermore, the story threading together her yearning to fulfill that love in every context eventually leading to her unfortunate final chapter. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

Tucci as Clive and the showcasing of how his love for Whitney developed. 👍🏾👍🏾

And the battle between Williams’ and Sanders’ characters in terms of displaying what it means to show up for Whitney as a form of love. 👍🏾👍🏾👍🏾

All of them were just so well written and executed. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

** ** **

Overall #IWannaDanceWithSomebody gives Whitney (2018) – meets The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel – meets Elvis – meets Selena. 

In Ann Hornaday’s book Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies, she writes: “For viewers to believe the dramatized reality on-screen, the actor must deliver a carefully calibrated collection of externals—how the character looks, walks, and talks—and psychological internals, a subtle mix of playacting and psychic osmosis…When it works, the movie not only depicts someone whom audience members can instantly recognize and accept as the person they know from history or current events, but also brings forth a new creation, a third character born of the actor’s own emotional truth and transparency.” 

I bring this up because I noticed a few folks made comments about how Ackie lacked Whitney’s “look.” But for me, every scene she was in, I was able to see Whitney. Especially in that medley performance. She owned the role for me. 

Outside of that, the audience reviews (from my social media feeds) are all correct, THIS is that biopic that should be the ultimate period on other Whitney projects. It is truly an engaging and purposeful life story that also takes you down quite an emotional and enjoyable memory lane of vocal moments from The Voice. 

Like, for real… we don’t need another one, or anything else pertaining to Nippy after this. Let her and her GOAT status rest in reverence. 

SN: That damn final half of Act Three really grabs you by surprise, though. I was really CRYING! 

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