Amidst the frenzy of nostalgia, longing for a time before the pandemic, when musicians were artists, production companies have given us a slew of musical biopics. Yet, the differences between each have become blurred. The film “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” may seem like just another movie to wait for streaming to watch. The team behind the project, however, could imply otherwise.
Last year, TriStar Pictures acquired the rights to the project, detailing the life and music of Whitney Houston. After almost a year in production, the film faces obstacles with the departure of the previous director, Stella Meghie. The director told media outlets her leaving was due to “creative differences.” To stay on track for a 2022 release date, the studio quickly replaced her with Kasi Lemmons.
Producers Clive Davis, Anthony McCarten, and Pat Houston are under immense pressure, as emphasized in a statement released by the Houston estate: “All Whitney fans have an appetite for perfection when it comes to Whitney and her legacy.”
Lemmons serves as a perfect replacement for the former director, claiming that, “Earlier in [her] writing career [she] developed two projects for Whitney and had to opportunity to meet her.” Lemmons is well-respected as she previously helmed the feature film “Harriet” and acted as showrunner for “Ring Shout!” Her history of highlighting profoundly talented Black women on screen offers audiences some promise that Lemmons will do justice for the gravity and complexity of Whitney Houston’s life story.
Despite the foreseeable scrutiny the film may receive, the crew is in good spirits, pressing on full-steam-ahead.
Audiences may be wondering what’s so special about this biopic as opposed to others, such as “Rocketman,” “Aretha,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” (also written by Anthony McCarten). The subject matter is the same, filled with the greatest hits, and usually detail how the songs came to be. I always find myself clinging to the character. How, if at all, can I relate to them? The uniqueness lies in who the artist was and what they did with their influence.
While the impact of artists like Elton John and Freddie Mercury is undeniable, Whitney Houston is one of the most awarded female musicians of all time. She’s one of the best-selling recording artists, selling more than 200 million records globally. Her accolades include 22 American Music Awards, 6 Grammy Awards, 2 Emmy Awards, and 15 Billboard Music Awards. Houston’s talent reached beyond music as she acted in and produced films throughout her career.
The contribution of the Houston Estate and record executives who discovered the singer–namely Clive Davis–ensure that the accuracy and truth of her story will remain. That of an icon who triumphed musically while bravely struggling with addiction.
“I Wanna Dance with Somebody” is set to release in theaters November 24th, 2022.