'Sparkle' Reviews Are In: What Critics Are Saying About Whitney Houston's Final Performance

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When Whitney Houston passed away this February, fans looked to her final feature film, Sparkle, to carry her music and movie legacy.

Released after her death, the film centers around three songstress sisters who shoot to Motown superstardom during the 1960s.

Houston plays Emma, the girls' over-bearing and conservative mother who was a former R&B singer. Her character's past mistakes is a cautionary tale for the singing trio as the maneuver through the dangerous world of fame.

So did Houston's performance shine through?

Many critics drew connections between the singer's personal life and the role, applauding Houston's organic approach to the material.

Here's what some reviewers said:

Entertainment Weekly: "At times, it's like a Joan Crawford neurotic-mother fantasy, and the gravelly conviction of Whitney Houston's performance proves that this could have been the first step not merely in a comeback but in a major re-invention. She had the instincts of a superb character actress."

The Boston Globe: "Houston didn't make many films — this was only her fourth — and she wasn't a natural actor. She spoke too fast, emoted too little, and seemed intimidated by the demands of being larger than life when she couldn't rely on her voice. This is the first time her singing feels like an afterthought. With her in this part, as a woman who once lived hard and is trying to prevent her daughters from being chewed up and spit out by the music business, Houston embodies powerful, cautionary wisdom. In her fuller carriage and in the cadences of the rasp her voice had acquired, you can see and hear a life lived."

The A.V. Club: "This is Houston’s last film, and her performance embodies everything right and wrong about Sparkle: It’s a monochrome collection of overprotective mom gestures, but suggests a rainbow of human complexity in a superfluous, show-stopping musical performance."

The Washington Post: "While Sparkle doesn’t give the audience a lasting memory of Houston’s voice at its most soaring, it does manage to provide a lingering sense of loss, mixed with celebration and grim irony. Houston plays the disapproving mother of a daughter who longs to make it big as a singer; in a role that plays like a cautionary mirror version of Houston’s own fatal battles, she warns against the depredations of an entertainment industry that indulges and exploits young talent just as intently as it nurtures it.

The Los Angeles Times: "In the film Houston sings "His Eye Is On the Sparrow" at an appropriately melodramatic point in the story. It's a fitting reminder of why Houston, whose voice was coarse-grained but still powerful at the time of filming, became a sensation in the first place."

The New York Times: "Sparkle is only Houston’s fourth feature film, and she brought to her role a sharper dramatic focus than in her previous screen performances. With her rigid posture and narrowed eyes, Emma is a woman who has seen the light with a vengeance. Her unbending strictness is a form of self-flagellation. As Emma talks in clipped, accelerated sentences, you sense the same fierce defensiveness Houston often put on like armor in interviews during her career. But as hard-nosed as Emma can be, she signals that behind the severity is a protective, unwavering love."

Will you be seeing Sparkle? Weigh in below.




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  • Ekoy

    I'm done with college ball. Nothing cshures your spirit like seeing your team start out hot and then lose nine in a row to drop out of even NIT contention.Food with sex may be gross, but what about sex with food? XD I want that little doodad Native was handing out at Wonder Festival a month ago it seems to be more appropriate for Kotone than fruit.I saw a picture on Heisei Democracy where Native's Emuko figure was being shown off at a figure convention with Max Factory on its ID plate, so I always assumed that Native was MF's hentai figure label..-= Tierb4s last blog: =-.

  • margo

    If you want people to want you for you, then start off by not telling them that you are rich.

  • Melissa Fawcett-Houston
    Melissa Fawcett-Houston

    Everyone should Go See Whitney Houston SPARKLE in her film Sparkle !!...Whitney was Excellent in this film as an Actress & as a singer who had accepted her New sounding voice. I saw Sparkle twice & cried through it both times. I was Blessed to have Whitney sing me her version of His Eye Is On the Sparrow before her film was released.

  • Jane

    What movie was she watching that movie was excellent. Some people are nothing but haters.

  • camrite

    I enjoyed this new version of "Sparkle" more than I did the first moviel, and I usually prefer the 'original' best. I even plan to buy the soundtrack. Great acting and music. It was a nice cap to my birthday celebration.

  • MD

    Same problem only I am a female MD, and it is hard rying to find someone.

  • lisa

    This film is ok. Bad acting by Jordan Sparks and cast. Who cast this film?