It was inevitable that a biopic about Whitney Houston would eventually be made. But most people thought it would be a major movie event for theaters rather than end up as a TV movie. As early as right after Houston died, we were hearing rumors about Jennifer Hudson perhaps playing her in a movie down the road. Imagining such a thing was more than a little spectacular, especially since Hudson can nearly equal Whitney’s vocal ability. Most people were also hoping for a top director, which it now has in Angela Bassett.
The bad news is that it’s going to be made for Lifetime Network, which might have some good projects occasionally, yet has a stigma at times of being inferior in their movie products. Far too many people still have the bad taste of “Liz & Dick” from a couple years ago about the romance of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Starring Lindsay Lohan, most people are still scratching their heads wondering how her career survived after the movie aired. While it had a few moments of potential, it was almost superseded by a much better biopic: “Betty & Coretta.”
Bassett acted in the above movie about the friendship between Coretta Scott King and Dr. Betty Shabazz. It was more worthy of the type of biopics you want to see commercial cable take on. Even so, Lifetime has had a penchant for being deemed the production factory of cheaply made TV movies that go with by-the-numbers scripts. They’ve survived with enough compelling material designed with women in mind, which is still an area underutilized on cable TV. And everyone knows that, hence why Lifetime still pulls in viewers.
Considering this new Whitney Houston biopic will focus on her relationship with Bobby Brown, there’s another issues at hand: How realistic can it really be? While we’ll expect something much better than “Liz & Dick”, the details regarding Houston and Brown are one that may almost have to be sugarcoated in order to not depress Houston’s fans. Despite the talent of both, the background of their relationship seems 10 times more volatile than the Taylor-Burton marriage ever was. It’s one reason why a theatrical movie would have been better to get to the heart of the truth.
It’s also a better place to show the dichotomy of Houston’s life from seeming to be one of the cleanest-living celebrities around to becoming addicted to drugs and developing habits she didn’t seem to exhibit before marriage. Those kind of wide leaps make for compelling celebrity explorations, yet usually in movies or non-commercial cable.
Lifetime still doesn’t add any excessive profanity or anything else overly graphic to their movies. In that regard, they may seem the equivalent to the Hallmark Channel in comparison to other cable projects about relationships or general biopics. This doesn’t necessarily mean the story of Houston and Brown will be completely sanitized. The public knows enough truth to know that it’s going to have to be brutally honest at times without using excessive profanity, sex, or graphic drug use to make any point.
The fact that most of us still look at Whitney Houston as one of the brightest lights in the history of singing talent, it’s still hard to take what happened to her. Perhaps Lifetime was the best place after all where her troubled relationship with Bobby Brown will be slightly altered to bring some level of dignity to a life with two very different sides.