Beauty (Grace Marie Bradley), the titular role in a new Netflix film, assures her father (Giancarlo Esposito) that she’s not going anywhere. He, in some capacity, doesn’t want her to go anywhere. That’s despite of his contradicting desire to set his daughter out in the world. Beauty sings gospel music on her local church. She is also getting a bigger version of the attention that her ex-back up singer mother (Niecy Nash) is getting. He wants her to adhere to his version of Christian values but he also wants to monetize her. She of course has a mind of her own, her eyes glistening while watching her idols and wanting to be like them. Andrew Dosonmu’s Beauty, then, captures the early life of a fictional young Black girl or woman.
Beauty’s only ticket out of a suburb full of Christians is a record contract. Screenwriter Lena Waithe can cast enough of a wide net with a story about a young Black singer. Specifically, one from a Christian household. Viewers who are young enough can treat this as pure fiction. The 1980s period touches can even remove younger viewers from any pop culture reference they might know. The movie’s impressionistic approach brings the same effect. The same goes for the addition of two characters playing her brothers (Kyle Bary and Michael Ward). Even if yes, they don’t add anything to the story. But those of us who are old enough to know the real life basis of the titular character will think of at least two names.
Eventually, there comes a scene when Beauty shows off an apartment that she intends to share with her girlfriend (Aleyse Shannon). And that’s when Beauty’s real life comparison becomes painfully obvious. It also begs critics and viewers to ask the question of why Lena Waithe wrote this screenplay. Is this a reminder for most people that Beauty’s real life version, WHITNEY HOUSTON, is bisexual? Regardless, watching this reminds me of the Lifetime biopic of Houston. I have yet to see Lifetime’s rendition of Houston’s life, it’s likely to be terrible. But it at least has the gumption to be what it is clearly instead of hiding behind impressionism and pseudonyms.
Another flaw is this movie is that it’s only half-interesting when the adults appear on screen, both Esposito and Nash doing their best to add gravitas to allegorical dialogue. The only liberties it takes in that story is that Beauty goes from one Svengali to another. She starts out from being under her father’s control to being under the control of a female record agent (Sharon Stone). Although yes, Houston’s metaphorical jailer is Clive Davis. There are enough scenes with them but I wish there were more. Bradley is as much of a rising star as the woman she’s portraying, but there has to be a project for her that’s better than this.
Catch Beauty on Netflix.