Aaliyah biopic does well but disappoints

Lifetime’s biopic of Aaliyah causes social media stir of disappointment but triumphs in ratings

In all honesty, I wanted to give the new Lifetime biopic of the life of R&B singer Aaliyah a superb review, however after watching with millions of others this past Saturday, it left me in much disdain. The story told about the humble beginnings of the once crowned R&B Princess was a disappointment but somewhat expected.

When it comes to biopics and portraying the real life stories of some of our favorite stars on the big screen, much thought has to be put into the production because you have an ample story to tell and big shoes must be filled in order for audiences to find the story beyond believable and relatable.

For starters, I was quite excited when I first found out there would be a biopic produced surrounding the life story of Aaliyah who happened to be one of my favorite singers during her lifespan. When it was first announced that “Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B” would premiere on the Lifetime Network, that’s when all doubt began to circulate through my mind. Not to say that Lifetime isn’t a credible network to produce such a film but Aaliyah’s story deserved to be told on a much higher spectrum of film production and not just a made for TV movie.

To state the obvious, Aaliyah’s family didn’t condone the project to move forward and as a result they restricted the network from the rights to use any of Aaliyah’s music. Actress Alexandra Shipp who portrayed Aaliyah was forced to sing some of late star’s hits including “At Your Best.”

Shipp, who is a strikingly beautiful actress can somewhat be compared to Aaliyah in the looks department but I can’t say the same for majority of the other cast members. Actress Chattrisse Dolabaille portrayed Missy Elliott, however if this was a modern day Missy Elliott, she would’ve fit the bill but Elliott was much heavier in her earlier days when working with Aaliyah. The same rings true with actor Izaak Smith who portrays music producer Timbaland.

One thing I can say about this film however is that Shipp can carry a tune. Although her vocals weren’t exactly the same as Aaliyah’s, it was reminiscent. Speaking of vocals, I was very glad when the elephant in the room was addressed in this film—the rumored marriage of R. Kelly and Aaliyah.

During the 90’s, there was high speculation that R. Kelly married a then 15-year-old Aaliyah but the marriage was later annulled due to it being illegal as Aaliyah reportedly lied about her age on the marriage certificate. Whether the interpretation was true or not, I still wondered the full truth of the matter as again, Aaliyah’s family didn’t give their stamp of approval for this film nor did they have any say in it.

Although I am not a professional actress, most of the dialogue in the film seemed too ‘goody’ and not so realistic. It appeared as the cast were simply reciting their lines instead of allowing natural conversation to flow.

I did anticipate the end of “Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B” because I wanted to see the film’s portrayal of the 2001 plane crashed that claimed the life of Aaliyah and eight others. Instead of going into details about the crash, the film ended with Aaliyah saying her goodbyes to her then boyfriend, Damon Dash just as she was about to head to the airport to board a plane to the Bahamas to shoot the music video of her last single, “Rock The Boat.”

I must admit that I did watch this film twice hoping that I would get something different the second time around but to my dismay, I was just as disappointed the second time around. I took to social media to see what others were thinking of the film, and just as I were disappointed, so were many of Aaliyah’s loyal fans.

I also believe that not every artist deserves a biopic but fortunately I truly believe that Aaliyah did deserve a biopic as she was an up and coming artist whose life was ended tragically early on. Aaliyah made an impact in the music industry by not conforming to the industry and being different. Aaliyah was known to wear baggy clothing that gave her a tomboyish yet girly look.

When it’s all said and done, I strongly believe Lifetime could’ve kept the book closed on this biopic and perhaps the idea of a biopic film of the late singer’s life could’ve been shopped around to major film production companies instead.

Lifetime did triumph in ratings this past weekend with this film although it brought much disappointment.

Media maven and television host, Wendy Williams served as a producer for this film and what irks the situation even more is that Williams took to her social media to say “Let Me Know” was her favorite song of Aaliyah. Any true Aaliyah fan would tell you there was no such song by Aaliyah and instead the song was titled, “At Your Best.” Simply put, Williams should stick to hosting and leave the production work to the professionals.

Rating: 5/10

-Samantha Pounds