Whitney Houston goes on musical journey from Harlem to Motown Discuss this article
Messy, tear-stained and big-hearted, this remake of Sam O’Steen’s 1976 musical moves its trio of ’60s singing superstars from Harlem to home-of-Motown Detroit, and focuses more explicitly and poignantly on ideas of black womanhood and success. The film’s story is less about meek songwriter Sparkle (Sparks) finding her way to the spotlight while her sisters form a girl group and implode under the pressure of personal drama, than it is about the siblings’ struggles to find a way out of the working class life in which they were raised.
While Sparkle fights to prove that there’s a path in showbusiness that doesn’t involve getting used and discarded, Dolores (Tika Sumpter) aims for medical school, and Sister (Ejogo) wields her beauty like a weapon onstage and off. At the centre of the film is Whitney Houston in her final role as an iron-fisted matriarch; looking drawn and uncomfortable, the late singer only comes alive when she lets loose with a church hymn. Nevertheless, the performance is fiercely bittersweet, both thanks to its real-life context and the conflicting desires that the character represents.
Emotional and unrestrained, the film sometimes lets its melodrama get the better of it. Thankfully, Ejogo is incandescent as the group’s talented, destructive star, slinking through Curtis Mayfield songs and throwing herself into the character’s downward spiral with admirable abandon. Sister is the one you remember; like the film, she’s mesmerising because of her flaws as well as her charms.By Alison Willmore
Time Out Doha,