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Tears fall as Naomi Ackie stars in Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody

Film Review: Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody (12A) – seen at The Light Cinema, Wisbech

Starring: Naomi Ackie, Stanley Tucci, Ashton Sanders and Tamara Tunie.

Running time: 2hrs 24m Director: Kasi Lemmons

Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody (61621749)
Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody (61621749)

I never thought I’d cry with emotion at hearing the national anthem of the United States of America.

But when Naomi Ackie lip-synced the recreation of Whitney’s amazing delivery of The Star-Spangled Banner at the 1991 Super Bowl performance, tears of joy did roll down my face.

Later in the film, I cried again as the pure emotion of her cover of Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ hit me right in the heart.

And for the final hour of this film I was holding them back as Ackie portrayed Whitney's beautiful life spiralling out of control, leading to her tragic and untimely death at the age of just 48.

The makers of this film promise “a joyous, emotional, heartbreaking celebration of the life and music of Whitney Houston, tracking her journey from obscurity to musical superstardom,” and they deliver beautifully on that pledge.

We first meet Whitney practicing Gospel songs in front of her demanding, yet loving, mum Cissie, played with total class by Tamara Tunie.

We then follow her journey to stardom after she is talent spotted by record producer Clive Davis, who is portrayed with warmth and humility by the excellent Stanley Tucci.

The tumultuous relationship with fellow singer Bobby Brown is played out too, with Ashton Sanders nailing the part of the self-proclaimed bad boy.

But, of course, the success of this film hinges on the performance of British actor Ackie – and she is superb throughout.

The character obviously changed as she progresses from sweet choir girl to global megastar, and Ackie takes on those changes with aplomb.

She can be innocent, sexy, angry and downright crushed by the rollercoaster career and life Whitney enjoyed and endured.

I’ve read criticism that this film is too formulaic... but that’s what I want from a biopic. I thought Whitney was talented and beautiful, but I wasn’t a huge fan and there’s lots about her revealed in this amazing film.

Jeremy Ransome

Rating 9/10.

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