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Photo: ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’
It’s been an amazing year for movies, and there’s still more to come! The holiday season will undoubtedly bring about a plethora of family adventures, franchise installments, and Oscar contenders. One upcoming film catching people’s eyes is the new Whitney Houston biopic entitled: ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody.’ The film will be released just in time for Christmas, dropping on December 21st of this year. It stars Naomi Ackie as the iconic Whitney Houston and Stanley Tucci as her record producer, Clive Davis. The film is set to be a biopic of Houston’s life and career, covering her struggles and triumphs as she asserts herself in pop icon history.
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Hollywood loves a good biopic, as seen with Baz Lurhmann’s ‘Elvis’ earlier this year, and the accolade-accomplisher ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in 2018. ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ shares the same screenwriter as ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ Anthony McCarten, who has written plenty of biopics from ‘The Theory of Everything’ to ‘The Two Popes,’ both of which he was nominated for an Oscar. ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ is directed by Kasi Lemmons, who was also the director behind 2019’s ‘Harriet’ based on the life of social activist Harriet Tubman. It appears that this tribute to Whitney Houston is in good hands, but how will it rise up against the mountain of praiseworthy films this year? And how does the film’s position as a biopic affect its strength?
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I Wanna Dance With Somebody – Whitney Houston’s Legacy
Born in the 60s, and signed onto a record label by the age of 19, Whitney Houston made the biggest of impacts through her voice and talent, as well as her grace and heart. It’s no surprise she’s next in line for a deep-dive film of her life story. Like many pressured celebrities, she also had her own personal battles to fight, and struggled like any normal person. Houston passed at the age of 48, and it’s no secret that there is tragedy in her story. Hopefully, the upcoming film can handle all subject matter with respect and justice. Her impact on the pop music world will never be forgotten, and she deserves that lasting legacy. A legacy that will make this film stand out among the rest.
Naomi Ackie is taking up this daunting mantle, and from what little we have seen of this film, she is embodying the spirit of Houston. Ackie is making her rise to fame, having previous supporting roles in ‘Lady Macbeth,’ in which she starred alongside Florence Pugh, ‘The End of the F***ing World,’ which earned her a British Academy Television Award, and the fandom dividing ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.’ It seems like this role will take Ackie to the next level and further cement her stardom power.
Biopics are meant to be in honor of the person they are based on, though movies are also made for their entertainment value. If ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ wants to succeed, it will have to honor Houston without giving into shock value or glamorization just for the sake of entertainment, as other films have unfortunately done. This should be a celebration of Whitney’s life. Let’s keep it that way. McCarten’s own ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ has received plenty of criticism for its fictionalizations woven into its plot. A plot that was meant to demonstrate the life and career of Freddie Mercury, just as ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ hopes to demonstrate the life and career of Whitney Houston. Just a few weeks ago, ‘Blonde’ was released, which was a fictionalized take on the life of Marilyn Monroe, and though it was based on fiction, it still swerved into the biopic lane for its subject material surrounding a real person, and that real person being none other than the remarkable Marilyn Monroe. ‘Blonde’ received heavy criticism for a number of reasons, but its relationship with fact versus fiction seems to be the base for a vast majority of those criticisms. It’s dangerous to twist history and to twist the perceptions of real-life figures.
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When it comes to writing and adapting, liberties have to be taken for the overall product. Timelines may have to be broken to fit into the structure, and development can be stunted or expedited depending on the needs of the story. Many of these liberties are understandable, and it’s likely that a writer will try every possible solution to keep things as they were in history before concluding that it has to be reshaped in order to fit into a 2-hour runtime of a film. The problems arise when too many liberties are taken and the audience is uncomfortably placed in a position where the lines of what is real and what is falsified are too blurred. A way to combat this conflict is to always keep in mind the person that the story is about. They are the core of everything and they are the ones whose name, image, and reputation are all on the line. Biopics just have to convey honesty on the screen.
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Hope for Whitney Houston
At the end of the day, there’s a lot of hope for ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody.’ Hope is obviously never a bad thing to have. There’s a solid team behind it, with Ashton Sanders, Tamara Tunie, Nafessa Williams, and Clarke Peters all filling out supporting roles. There’s also not an overload of content released on the film yet, so there isn’t a whole lot to critique. It’s better to wait and see how it all turns out and keep expectations at a reasonable level.
I’m sure the watchlist for December will only continue to grow, but ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ looks like it will be making the perfect addition to anyone’s schedule in the near future. With award season rolling around, there’ll be a truckload of films seeking critical and commercial acclaim, so we’ll see how much traction this entry receives. All we want is for Whitney Houston to get the biopic she deserves and for this story to do her legacy justice. I truly hope she gets just that. Look out for ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ coming soon – fingers crossed that it’s a good one!
By Rachel Beltowski
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Rachel Beltowski is a screenwriter and film critic, with a passion for character-driven stories and thought-provoking themes. From adventure to horror, Rachel enjoys stories which take the audience on an emotional rollercoaster and allow for personal expression that would otherwise go silent. Rachel was drawn to The Hollywood Insider’s dedication to individual perspectives and positive world impacts. The Hollywood Insider has provided a foundation for Rachel to share her insights and leap into the center of the entertainment industry. Rachel hopes to bring a fresh voice into the world of film and television, and share her love of stories with others.