‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ remembers the legacy of Whitney Houston

By Lucy Bridges, Staff Writer

New film “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” about the rising fame of Whitney Houston was recently released in theaters on Dec. 23. The film was directed by American film director Kasi Lemmons and the screenplay was written by Anthony McCarten, who has previously been nominated for Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Two Popes” in 2020 and “The Theory of Everything” in 2015. 

“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” follows the true story of world renowned American singer Whitney Houston, played by British actress Naomi Ackie. The film begins by highlighting Houston’s early days where she sang in a church choir and was vocally coached by and sang backup for her mother Cissy Houston, played by Tamara Tunie. 

The film then segways into Houston’s entrance into the music world and the developing spotlight in her music career. Throughout the movie, Lemmons and McCarten expose the intensity of the music industry and the struggles and pressures faced by Houston as a young singer in a world of critics. This intensity leads Houston down a path of dangerous drug usage. 

The cast of “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” features strong actresses and actors including Ashton Sanders, who plays Houston’s husband Bobby Brown, Stanley Tucci as Clive Davis, record producer for Houston and Nafessa Williams as Robyn Crawford, creative director and long-time friend and companion of Houston. 

One of the most notable aspects of the movie, which is what made Houston famous, were the singer’s powerful ballad and song scenes that were incorporated into the movie. Included were Houston’s first television performance where she performed “Home” from the musical “The Wiz” and the recreation of her music video for the single “How Will I Know.” Houston’s famously known song and namesake of the film “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and her ballad, as seen in the movie she starred in “The Bodyguard” and what turned into one of her most loved songs, “I Will Always Love You”, both have dedicated scenes and performances in the film.

Ackie did a notable job at not just creating scenes that reveal moments of Houston’s life to the public, but at recreating expressions, body language and physical movements that Houston actually made during those significant moments. Houston’s performance of the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the 1991 Super Bowl was a significant moment in her career as a singer, and one that Ackie mirrored excellently in “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” as she swung and moved her arms and mirrored facial expressions of Houston in that moment. 

Although Lemmons chose not to make the entire plotline about Houston’s struggle with drugs, the conflicts that she faces as a young singer who rises to immense fame and faces constant scrutiny from the public for both her life and music style, is apparent throughout the film. These public struggles build up in the singer’s use of drugs, but, in moments that focus heavily on Houston’s drug addiction, Lemmons reminds the audience of the singer’s substantial resilience, immense talent and true joy for singing. 

Lemmons has created a film that highlights the realistic and truthful aspects of the fame and publicity that Houston experienced in her lifetime and the consequences that the spotlight brought upon the performer’s life, while also creating reminders of why Houston’s talent and personality were so loved by the world.

 

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