Lifetime's Biopic: Aaliyah

Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B

   Remember this sweet angelic voice that filled the airways? Remember the light that shined when she stepped into a room? Remember the impact she had on the music industry? Well... After viewing Lifetime's biopic, you will have to relish in those memories as this movie failed to capture the essence, beauty and mystique that was Aaliyah.

     I have been following the controversy behind this made for TV film since June of this year. When announced that Lifetime would be producing the film, actress/singer Zendaya Coleman was slated to play the late R&B princess. She quickly dropped out of the role as controversy peaked and up and coming actress Alexandra Shipp eagerly took her place. Aaliyah's parents did not give Lifetime the rights to use Aaliyah's music, therefore, Shipp herself, sang the songs for the film. Since that moment, the movie was predicted to be an epic failure.

  The movie covered the last 11 years of Aaliyah's short life with skeletal dialogue, immature acting, and facile assumptions. It opened with 10-year-old Aaliyah singing "My Funny Valentine," then quickly advanced to teenage Aaliyah performing Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative." Shipp's performance of the 1988 hit fell short as her singing and dancing was not up to par. Shipp redeems herself with her cover of Vanessa L. Williams' "Save the Best for Last," and Aaliyah's "At Your Best (You are Love)," but that was not enough to blind us from her egregious acting skills. It is preposterous to believe that Shipp studied Aaliyah's character before taking on such a big role; rather, her performance was a reflection of the speculation of who Aaliyah was. She admitted in an interview that she had 10 days to get into the "character." How do you learn 22 years of someone's life in 10 days? She failed to connect with the role and capture Aaliyah's spirit. Shipp also stated she wanted to show people who she is in the film. However, if I recall, the movie is called Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B not Alexandra: The Princess of R&B. The movie continued by touching (and when I say touching, I literally mean touching or breezing through it) on her relationship with R.Kelly, transition to Missy Elliot and Timbaland as producers, album releases, significant performances, movie roles and her untimely death. This movie was pointless and did not accurately depict WHO Aaliyah was and why she was named "The Princess of R&B."

      On a positive note, this movie will ignite heavy rotations of Aaliyah's music and movies across the nation.

I had several problems with this film:

     1. Casting: Not one actor in the film embodied their character. Hell, they did not even remotely remind us of who they were portraying. We knew who was who based on Aaliyah's real life story. The actor playing R. Kelly was terrible. Missy Elliot was overweight and rocked finger waves back then; the actress was skinny with longer hair. Timbaland was too light skin. And Rashad was played by Drake's long lost little brother. Not to mention Aaliyah. You can comb the girl's hair [Shipp] over her face and dress her with Aaliyah's style but she never once portrayed Aaliyah. Shipp's vibe was arrogant and overbearing. And, Zendaya was scrutinized for being too "fair" skinned. Was this girl not the same color? They might as well had moved forward with Keshia Chante as the lead in this film.

     2. Music: Alexandra Shipp can carry a tune but not Aaliyah's tune. She could not reach some of the notes and I absolutely hated her performance of "Got to Give it Up" from Aaliyah's second album One In A Million. At times, she did not sing the songs like the originals. Shipp covered Aaliyah's "At Your Best (You are love)," The One I Gave My Heart To," "Journey To the Past," and "Got to Give it Up."

     3. Coverage of R.Kelly and Aaliyah's relationship: I believe Wendy Williams stated this topic would be delivered tastefully. What was or could ever be tasteful about a 27 y/o man ALLEGEDLY marrying a 15 y/o girl? Did we forget that this occurrence was a conjecture that was publicly denied by Aaliyah? The movie did not show that. It portrayed the situation as a matter of factly and still managed to call R. Kelly out as a pedophile. 

     4. Disrespect to the family: Might I remind you, Aaliyah's family was opposed to the film and executive producers Debra Chase and Wendy Williams moved forward with the project anyway. Aaliyah's family carried two requests: put Aaliyah's story across the big screen and to consult with them on the project. Had those two things been done, I'm sure the movie would have been a lot better. 



What did you think of the film?



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