It’s only natural that the music of Whitney Houston would take centre stage in the trailer for her biopic, due for release July 6th. A joint release by Miramax and Roadside with Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald on board, the trailer includes an interesting choice of music that balances a view of Houston in popular culture with the deeper understandings of an individual that any biopic worth its salt will offer.
As the seminal Houston hit “I Have Nothing” plays throughout, of interest here is how the visuals are cut to match the emotional ebb and flow of the tune. Footage from Houston’s personal life is mixed with clips from a variety of her legendary performances. Interspersed with a variety of monologue / talking heads clips comes her indelible voice; her mother provides that last line, appealing to an innocent and unadulterated view of her life on the balance: “she was always a little girl wishing upon a star, always trying to find her way back home,” she says, shortly before the main title card.
“I Have Nothing” was first released as a single February 20, 1993, the third single from The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album (1992). When first released it held a clear association with the film that it was associated with; now, it’s a compelling choice with autobiographical implications. As a song hearkening from arguably the height of her career, the title and lyrics (“don’t make me close one more door / I don’t wanna hurt anymore”) allude to the struggles that it would become all too clear Houston faced to varying degrees the entire time, culminating in her tragic passing in February 2012.
Perhaps ironic considering the title of the background song, her mother, Cissy Houston, says “you have three places to sing from – heart, mind, guts… she learned them all.”
Still, as the song opens, “share my life / take me for what I am,” we are asked – and the trailer promises – that we see, hear, and accept all of the complicated artist that she was. And that across a 35-year career spanning a rich breadth of styles, collaborations, and recordings.
Perhaps as interesting as the choice of music is the fact that the musical selection for the trailer is not the lead single from the same Bodyguard album. Undoubtedly Houston’s most popular hit, the cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” is one of a rare number of instances where the cover version is arguably more definitive than the original. Yet, the trailer editors decided to opt for “I Have Nothing,” instead. This speaks to a real and immediate bid by the trailer for prospective movie-goers to wholly expand their view on who Houston was – even if that means taking the relatively subtle compromise of using the third single from her halcyon-days record, rather than the lead.
– Curtis Perry