— Bette Davis as Rosa Moline from Beyond the Forest, 1949
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August 17, 2012
Let’s Talk: Whitney Houston Does ‘Sparkle’ in Her Final Film Performance
— Posted by Kenny Miles
The new film “Sparkle,” a remake loosely inspired by The Supremes, is a reflection of the old school Motown music. As a film, it was meant to be a light and nostalgic look back at a beloved, golden era of musical talent. However, with the unexpected passing of Whitney Houston in February, the film unintended becomes a tribute to the famed diva that struggled with personal demons. Though “Sparkle” is inspired by the Supremes, the viewer is reminded during scenes of domestic and drugs abuse of Whitney Houston’s tragic elements that hindered her career, ultimately cut her life short.
“Sparkle” wasn’t my type of film and I wasn’t even sure which actress was Jordin Sparks. This is not meant to serve someone in my early thirty-ish white male demographic. I went because I consider Whitney Houston to be one of the great musicians from my childhood. She doesnt have much in common with Bruce Springsteen which is, my favored iconic rocker, however Whitney captured the essence of the 80’s era in her own way. In my own way I went out of respect to honor the legend. I was also very curious to watch Whitney Houston’s final performance.
For a film, “Sparkle” has plenty of estrogen driven, heavy-handed, melodramatic moments involving the cutthroat music business and family fighting. Jordin Sparks of “American Idol” isn’t quite up to tasks as Houston, but also the relatively unknown Carmen Ejogo upstages Ms. Sparks as well. I assumed Carmen Ejogo was the lead. This was supposed to be a Jordin Sparks movie, but it was unsuccessful at doing so. What makes “Sparkle” tragic is this movie could have been the perfect comeback vehicle for Whitney Houston. She was a better actress in this then in “The Bodyguard” or “The Preachers Wife” with actual genuine potential. You are haunted by her on screen presence. One scene that was superb features a confrontation dinner table scene involving the family fighting. The tension simmers and boils over to the point of strong reactions from the advanced screening audience. The moment was emotionally cringe worthy and a dramatic highlight of the mediocre musical film.
Whitney Houston served as Executive Producer for “Sparkle;” this was a project close to her heart. Pastor T.D. Jakes was one of the producers and he has financially backed a few light-hearted faith-based films for the African Americans audiences. There is plenty of lackluster moments which hinders ‘Sparkle’ from achieving even being a ‘good’ movie, however, what will stick with Motown and gospel music fans is Whitney Houston’s performance which balances numerous emotions and quite a dominant personality; somber and soothing yet feisty and ferocious. Watching what might be her widely seen final musical performance where she beautifully sings the gospel song “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” accompanied with a church chorus induced chills and incited goose bumps for me. This is the emotional and spiritual climax to “Sparkle” for the viewers. Its as if Whitney battled her demons, sought redemption and was ready to soar . Jordin Sparks just doesn’t deliver in her final musical number as much as Whitney did. And “Sparkle” at least captured apart of Whitney Houston’s legacy of a talented musician who’s life ended too soon.
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Whether something is overlooked by Hollywood or whatever business trend has captured the Entertainment Industry’s attention, Kenny Miles loves to talk about movies (especially the cultural impact of a film). He covers various aspects of movies including specialty genre films, limited release, independent, foreign language, documentary features, and THE much infamous "awards season." Also, he likes to offer his opinion on the business of film, marketing strategy, and branding. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado and is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society critics group. When he isn’t writing, Kenny channels his passion for interacting with moviegoers (something most movie pundits lack) as a pollster for the market research company CinemaScore and working as floor staff/special events coordinator in the film community. You can follow him on Twitter @kmiles723.
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