In 2017, of Nick Bloomfield’s Whitney: Can I Be Me, I wrote, “The overwhelming feeling this film provokes is sadness, and not just because of the drugs and the brilliant life cut short. There isn’t any celebration here; like a lot of Bloomfield’s work, there is only casualty.”
Kevin Macdonald’s 2018 take, Whitney, is better – a lot better. It not only appreciates Whitney as an artist, it places her in the context of her times in a far more significant way, punctuating the action of her life with incredibly effective montages of just how 80s the 80s were – and Whitney was nothing if not an 80s phenomenon.
Bloomfield focused, as befitting his nature, on the love triangle between Whitney, her ‘best friend’ Robyn and her husband, Bobby Brown. Macdonald aims bigger and higher, viewing Whitney’s sexuality through a prism of pain.
I felt a lot of big emotions watching Whitney. It’s the documentary she deserved: hardly hagiographic, indeed warts and all, but with a massive heart.
SBS is following its premiere screening of Whitney with a week of music bio pics, including Ray, Taylor Hackford’s 2004 film about Ray Charles, starring Jamie Foxx, which I reckon is one of the very best of the genre, and Miles Ahead, Don Cheadle’s odd, speculative fantasia on Miles Davis, which is flawed but fun.
Upload, the big new comedy on Amazon, is a fun take on what our near future may have looked like had Covid 19 not got in the way. Although its central idea – that we’ll be able to upload, on our deathbeds, into a virtual afterlife – can still hold. You come to sitcoms for the situation and stay for the characters. The relatively unknown cast here are appealing enough to show promise; the tech-cute situation certainly does, and breezily keeps you tethered while your appreciation for the human beings can develop.
Whitney, Australian TV Premiere, SBS, Sunday 10 May 9:20pm
Upload, now streaming on Amazon