The Whitney Houston 'Biopic' That Quietly Dropped On Netflix

Whitney Houston is an American musical icon and one of the most popular recording artists in the history of the medium. Her life is a crushing tragedy of once-in-a-lifetime talent undermined by impossible expectations and a lifestyle forbidden by her religiously conservative family. It is a life that would be very difficult to portray in an authorized manner, if only because the people who currently control her story would never allow her songs to grace a mainstream biopic.

Screenwriter Lena Waithe and director Andrew Dosunmu have presented Netflix with a ballsy workaround in "Beauty." The film centers on a brilliant young African-American singer whose talent is too valuable a commodity to allow her to live a happy and healthy life as a gay woman. Beauty (Gracie Marie Bradley) isn't a human being; she is, like Houston, a joy-inducing product to be exploited for as long as she can belt into a microphone. Though "Beauty" received a mixed reception from critics at June 2022's Tribeca Film Festival, the involvement of Waithe alone should've sparked interest in the film. It also stars Nicey Nash, Giancarlo Esposito, and Sharon Stone. Most importantly, Houston is an LGBTQ icon. We're coming out of Pride Month. Why is this film getting dumped onto streaming?

Saving all our promotional efforts for ... when exactly?

"Beauty" is currently in Netflix's top ten, so someone is taking notice. Still, the film didn't have a Wikipedia page until July 1, and as of this posting, has only been reviewed by seven outlets (mostly major publications like the trades and The New York Times). One wonders if Netflix is leery of a legal battle in the midst of the streamer's highly publicized financial struggles. The quality of the film can't be a consideration, because they proudly promoted the ghastly "Red Notice."

For fans of the late diva, the absence of Houston's music is probably an unscalable hurdle. Thinly veiled biopics of cultural icons tend to be dicey commercial propositions. Look at "Primary Colors," "Up Close & Personal," and "Last Days." But this is nevertheless a pedigreed movie with big names that's getting dumped onto the biggest streaming service on the planet. I'm a Houston fan, and I didn't realize it was available to watch on Netflix until someone alerted me to film critic Noel Murray's tweets. I love Noel Murray, but if you're using Arkansan assassin to spread awareness for your movie, I must question your marketing efforts.

In any event, Whitney Houston deserved better just about every second of her life, and it's a kick in the gut to see her life trivialized yet again.