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Starring: Naomi Ackie, Stanley Tucci, Ashton Sanders, Tamara Tunie, Nafessa Williams, Clarke Peters
OUR RATING: ★★☆☆☆
Bio-musical drama directed by Kasi Lemmons. Based on the life and music of pop icon Whitney Houston (Naomi Ackie), I Wanna Dance with Somebody (2022) tracks her life in New Jersey as choir girl to one of the best-selling and most awarded recording artists of all time.
Our Favorite Quotes:'Music is not a color to me. It has no boundaries.' - Whitney Houston Click To Tweet
Cissy Houston: [to Whitney] God gives you a gift, you got to use it right.
Cissy Houston: [to Whitney] Know the melody backward and forward. And enunciate. Pay attention to the words. Complete every word.
Whitney Houston: You know what, I quit.
Cissy Houston: No, you don’t quit. You gave that up when you told me that you wanted to do this.
Whitney Houston: My dream, no, it’s crazy, is to be a professional singer like them. But the bar is way, way too high, so. I’m happy to just sing my little “shoop-shoop, diddy-dum, diddy-doos,” backing my mom.
Cissy Houston: My voice. It’s gone. I need you to do the opening solo.
Whitney Houston: What? Mama, you were just shouting at me a second ago.
Cissy Houston: Well, maybe that’s what done it! And I need some time to get it back. So you start the show tonight. I’m your mother. No talking back.
Clive Davis: [after hearing Whitney sing] Okay.
Gerry Griffith: Just okay?
Clive Davis: I think I might have just heard the greatest voice of her generation.
Gerry Griffith: Yeah. Yeah. That kind of “okay”.
Clive Davis: Gerry, my “okay” is different than your “okay”. My “okay” comes with investment and legal obligations. Yours comes with a side of fries.
Clive Davis: Now, what kind of songs do you like?
Whitney Houston: Great big songs.
Whitney Houston: [referring to songs] That you almost can’t wrap your arms around. Songs that are like climbing a mountain, that’ll stretch me vocally, that I really got to sing my raggedy a** off to sell.
Clive Davis: Gospel? Country? Black? White?
Whitney Houston: All the above.
Clive Davis: All the above?
Whitney Houston: All of them. A great song is a great song.
Clive Davis: And you are a hundred percent correct on that.
'Every song is a story. If it's not a story, it's not a song.' - Cissy Houston Click To Tweet
Clive Davis: I’m an open book, Whitney, just so you know. Even though people say that the text size is so small that you need very strong glasses.
Clive Davis: In those days, you couldn’t admit that there was ever anything wrong with you.
Whitney Houston: And can you now?
Clive Davis: I want to tell you one thing, dear Whitney, before we begin. I never get involved in the personal lives of my artists. I am not a babysitter. I’m not a camp counselor. I’m not a rabbi. I know music. I have an ear, and I have an instinct. And in this respect, I can serve you. And I will be there for you at any hour.
John Houston: [to Whitney] You’re a princess. With that voice and the looks, you could be America’s princess. Start looking like one.
Cissy Houston: [as Whitney is about to sing on The Merv Griffin Show] You’re going to be fine. Just pretend like you’re singing in the shower.
Whitney Houston: You want me to imagine I’m singing butt naked in front of Merv Griffin? Come on. It’s not helping.
Cissy Houston: Remember. Head, heart, gut. Right? You’re my princess.
'Great singing comes from three places. The head, the heart, and the gut.' - Cissy Houston Click To Tweet
Merv Griffin: You won’t forget that name. Whitney Houston.
Whitney Houston: [as they’re listening to “How Will I know] Maybe.
Clive Davis: Maybe? Why?
Whitney Houston: How will I know if he really loves me? I say a prayer with every heartbeat. You know? I could do something with the chorus. Go up a key, get more out of it.
Clive Davis: Yeah, but that’s not a reason to do a song. It’s got to have a hook.
Whitney Houston: A hook?
Clive Davis: Yeah.
Whitney Houston: I’ll give it a hook.
Whitney Houston: This is the look they want. America’s sweetheart.
Robyn Crawford: And you’re going to give it to them.
John Houston: Whitney is Daddy’s girl. Always was, always will be. Nothing comes between us, you understand?
Robyn Crawford: Yeah. Yes, sir.
John Houston: She’s my princess, and we’re building something here. Something that you will have no part in.
'Sing what I want to sing. Be how I want to be. Reach as big an audience as I can. Isn't that what art's meant to do?' - Whitney Houston Click To Tweet
Robyn Crawford: [to Whitney] You slept with Jermaine Jackson. You’re just going to sit here and tell me you slept with Jermaine Jackson?
Whitney Houston: We agreed we had to see guys.
Robyn Crawford: We didn’t agree to screw them!
Robyn Crawford: So that’s it? Just like that?
Whitney Houston: I want a family. A husband. Kids. Faith and family.
Whitney Houston: You know, we can go to hell for this kind of s**t. I don’t want to go to hell.
Robyn Crawford: Yeah. Well, I’m not in such a hurry myself.
Whitney Houston: [to Robyn] I love you. In perpetuity, throughout the universe. I need my best friend.
'To sing with the gods, sometimes you need a ladder.' - Whitney Houston Click To Tweet
Whitney Houston: [after listening to “I Wanna Dance With Somebody] It’s about wanting to dance with somebody really bad. I mean, really, really, really, really, really bad. And for whatever reason, for whatever reason, you can’t.
Clive Davis: [to Whitney] Are you pinching yourself yet? One more, and you’ll have beat the Beatles for the most consecutive number ones in history.
R&B DJ: A common criticism of you and your music. That you’re a sellout. That you’re not a real Black artist. You’re about to walk out, aren’t you?
Whitney Houston: No. You’ll be walking out before I will.
Whitney Houston: Look, I don’t know how to sing Black. And I don’t know how to sing white either. I know how to sing. Music is not a color to me. It has no boundaries. Why somebody got to say something dumba** like that? I mean, who said that? That’s just bull. And it makes me angry actually. It’s hateful and uninformed.
'It's about love. The things we do to get it, and the things we do to keep it.' - Whitney Houston Click To Tweet
Whitney Houston: Why I got to be what someone wants me to be anyway? Sing what I want to sing. Be how I want to be. Reach as big an audience as I can. Isn’t that what art’s meant to do? My whole life, “She ain’t Black enough. She ain’t white enough.” Well, how about, “She’s not obedient enough”? How about, “She ain’t fearful enough”?
Interviewer: Are you a businesswoman?
Whitney Houston: Yes, I think so.
Interviewer: What does a businesswoman do?
Whitney Houston: Well, what does a businesswoman do? She says what she doesn’t want. And she knows, primarily, what she wants.
Interviewer: So, you are a tough cookie?
Whitney Houston: Sometimes.
Whitney Houston: Not always, no. Sometimes. That means sometimes.
John Houston: [referring to Robyn] She is a bad influence. And the press is talking too much trash. It’s damaging the brand. Do you understand?
Whitney Houston: Since when did your little girl become “the brand”? I missed that.
Whitney Houston: Oreo. They calling me an Oreo. If they want to see Black, I’ll show them Black.
John Houston: No, you don’t. Don’t you go changing nothing. You keep on doing what you doing, because what you doing ain’t nobody ever done before. The first one over the hill always gets whupped. And you are the first, princess.
Cissy Houston: No one is like you. Look at me. No one is like you. You got class. You can sing.
Reporter: Hi, Whitney. You and Bobby are the king and queen of R&B. How does that feel?
Whitney Houston: It feels very good.
Clive Davis: Let’s find a song that isn’t about love. Oh, there aren’t any.
Robyn Crawford: Bobby’s got a reputation.
Whitney Houston: I know.
Robyn Crawford: You like that bad boy s**t?
Whitney Houston: Yeah. I do.
Robyn Crawford: You ill.
Whitney Houston: [referring to Bobby] You know, I’m tired of being the good girl. My career casts a lot of shadow. He’s famous enough to get with that. So, I’m good.
Robyn Crawford: You went from Jermaine to Bobby.
Whitney Houston: Why you got to be like that?
Robyn Crawford: I’m just saying. You sure know how to pick them.
Whitney Houston: So let me get this straight, Bobby Brown. You ask me to marry you, wait till I say yes, and tell me your goddamn ex-girlfriend is goddamn pregnant?
Bobby Brown: See, me and you, we from the same place. We from the ‘hood. Yeah, I know you. You don’t, for one second, got to be Whitney Houston around me. Not for a second.
Whitney Houston: [after singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl] Mommy. How did I do?
Cissy Houston: Are you kidding me, Nippy? You were fantastic. If you never do anything else in your life, you did that how it was supposed to be done.
Whitney Houston: The Bodyguard?
Clive Davis: It’s about a world-famous singing star and her difficult relationship with her bodyguard.
Whitney Houston: Nope. Who’s the bodyguard?
Clive Davis: Kevin Costner.
Whitney Houston: Did I say no? Because I meant yes.
Whitney Houston: I don’t know if I can do this anymore.
Bobby Brown: What you mean by that?
Whitney Houston: Be everything. To everyone.
Bobby Brown: Well, you can’t stop now. Right?
Clive Davis: The songs have to be great in order for the character to be great. So Kevin, your new best friend, found this. Here. This is Dolly Parton.
Clive Davis: [as Whitney then listens to Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”] What?
Whitney Houston: I like it. I like it.
Robyn Crawford: What I’m saying is I’m creative director. This is my job. I got this. It’s simple.
Bobby Brown: I’m the husband. I win.
Whitney Houston: Since when did Daddy get approval over everything?
Pat Houston: Girl, try day one. You just now noticed?
Whitney Houston: I’m carrying everyone, Clive. The press is always on me. It’s exhausting.
Clive Davis: Are you exhausted?
Whitney Houston: Yes. Yes, I’m exhausted. All Black women are exhausted. It’s just most of the time, all this princess be dreaming about is being at home with my baby on the couch.
Whitney Houston: I need my daughter to have the home she deserves. How can she when her father is Bobby Brown and her mother is me?
Clive Davis: Well, family is the most important thing.
Whitney Houston: Daddy. My money. I trusted you.
Whitney Houston: Everyone is using me like an ATM. Daddy, you were meant to look out for me.
John Houston: I’m still the boss.
Whitney Houston: I don’t have a boss. But I do have a vacancy for a father. Maybe you want to apply for that.
Whitney Houston: “Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Gospel of Matthew, chapter five.
Clive Davis: “Don’t push your luck, or you might fall and break your tuchus.” That’s the gospel of Clive, chapter one.
Whitney Houston: Clive, you’re Jewish.
Clive Davis: So was Jesus. At least on his mother’s side.
Clive Davis: So the real reason that I asked you to come up here. Dear Whitney, the time has come for me to tell you that you need rehab. Okay? The number of problems that are arising indicate that you’re not going to win this battle. And that you’re underestimating the lethal power of drugs.
Clive Davis: [referring to the magazines] You see these? You’re on the cover of every one of them. And no longer for your music.
Whitney Houston: I beat the Beatles. I beat Elvis. I was the first Black, all-American, white-friendly girl. But that ain’t me. Clive, I gave up a lot.
Clive Davis: I know. I know. But I can’t leave it this way. This is a matter of life and death. You need to let me help you.
Whitney Houston: To sing with the gods, sometimes you need a ladder.
Clive Davis: No, Whitney. From the first time that I saw you, I knew you didn’t need a ladder. The gods were already there.
Whitney Houston: You let me down, Daddy. And now you’re breaking my heart.
John Houston: I know you and Bobby are hiding it. You get me my money, princess.
Whitney Houston: No. No. I’m not your princess. I’m not your princess no more.
James: [to Whitney] We’re all slowly dying, but you don’t have to participate so enthusiastically in the process.
Whitney Houston: I don’t blame you, Bobby. I don’t. The drugs were there before you came along. We didn’t help each other, but I don’t blame you for that.
Whitney Houston: [to Bobby] See. What I looked for in you wasn’t there. A home. Outside of my music, that’s all I ever wanted. But you broke that. And I watched my parents do that to each other, and I promised myself that’s not going to be me.
Cissy Houston: Remember. You’re my princess.
Whitney Houston: Mommy. You know, I think I’m just going to be me.
Whitney Houston: I know. I know I’m not where I used to be. But I know how to get there. I’m not going away. I can’t lose this.
Rickey Minor: This? This one night?
Whitney Houston: Yes. Yes. This one night. Me singing for them. I can’t live without it. I’m going to be ready.
Whitney Houston: I’m going to get ready for tonight. Okay? I’m going to make you so proud. I love you in perpetuity.
Bobbi Kristina, Whitney: Throughout the universe.
Whitney Houston: Yeah, that’s it. You got it, baby.
Whitney Houston: [flashback, 1994 at the American Music Awards] We’re going to do a medley for you. We’ve never done that before. It’s about love. The things we do to get it, and the things we do to keep it. So I’m going to sing for you. With thanks for all the love you’ve given me. And the great, great joy I’ve had in trying to repay that love.