A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Whitney is a documentary that explores the life and career of late singer Whitney Houston -- and, in doing so, delivers a powerful anti-drug message. Fully supported by Houston's family, the film offers frank, revealing interviews that help viewers better understand Houston's inner conflict. Viewers learn how she was introduced to the drugs that would ultimately destroy her, how substance use impacted her career and her family, and how those around her enabled her to continue. Houston's hearty sexual appetite (for both genders) is discussed; one friend mentions giving the singer a vibrator. Houston and her family swear frequently; expect to hear everything from "f--k" and "s--t" to "bitch" and "damn." The film doesn't offer up a moral, but rather effectively explains the why and how of Houston's situation. Hopefully that will help convince teens of the dangers of drugs/substance abuse.
What's the story?
WHITNEY explores the life, career, and untimely death of iconic singer Whitney Houston in an effort to answer this question: How did it all go wrong? Houston broke more records than any other female artist in music history, she was undeniably beautiful, she achieved success as an actress, and she came from a loving, tight-knit family rooted in the church. Since she really appeared to have it all, her public downfall was all the more confusing. Using interviews with those closest to the singer and footage from home videos, Academy Award-winning director Kevin Macdonald opens the door for audiences to see and understand "Nippy" (Houston's childhood nickname) as her family did. Houston's family and colleagues provide candid accounts of the issues she struggled with and an understanding of why she made destructive decisions.
Is it any good?
Macdonald should make some room on his mantle: This documentary may just earn him another Oscar. Whitney delivers the thing its audience wants most: answers. We want to understand why someone who appeared to be on top of the world would trip, fall, and choose to stay in the mud until it became quicksand -- and by the time the credits roll, we will. Macdonald starts by introducing a Whitney everyone can relate to: an everyday girl who could be anyone's daughter, or even the viewer herself. He takes audiences through her meteoric rise, shows why the world fell in love with her, and addresses the ensuing tabloid headlines. Then, we ride her descent. It's heart-wrenching, but in a true feat, Macdonald allows Houston to retain her dignity. Through archival footage, personal video, never-before-released materials, and interviews with the people in her world, Macdonald allows the public to see the real Whitney Houston and her demons.
Whitney will satisfy most audiences. Music fans will thrive on nuggets like a capella renditions of Houston's hits and trivia about how she came to reinvent "The Star-Spangled Banner." Parents will be engrossed in the missteps and red flags that Houston's family inadvertently made and missed. And teens will soak up the story of the Pop Queen turned Movie Star turned Drug-Addled Diva; hopefully it will leave them feeling that, when the story is all laid out, Houston's inner chaos and ultimate demise were, sadly, predictable.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the mix of fame, fortune, and drug problems that the music industry seems to serve up so frequently. According to Whitney, do you think Houston's success influenced her substance abuse?
Houston's brother said, "When you don't deal with things, they never go away." What do you think he meant by that? Why do you think the family kept Houston's secret for so long? What's the point in revealing it now?
Houston's mother, Cissy, was often on the road as a singer, leaving Whitney and her siblings with close family and friends. Those experiences had a negative impact on Whitney, so she brought her own daughter on the road with her -- which had its own negative consequences. Do you think Cissy did the wrong thing? What about Whitney?
"If you love someone, you want the best for them, even if it's not the best for you." If that statement from the film is true, who in Houston's life acted in her best interest? What are your thoughts on her marriage to Bobby Brown? How did their actions impact their daughter, Bobbi Kristina?
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give Whitney Houston?
Themes & Topics
For kids who love true stories
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.