The Stream: The film is too long to really feel like it did nothing.
The Big Screen: Andra Day’s performance and the random comedic relief.
The Final Bill: Andra Day captivates even as the movie fizzles as a whole.– S2S: Movie Review
Director: Lee Daniels
Writers: Suzan-Lori Parks (screenplay by), Johann Hari (based on the book “Chasing the Scream” by)
Stars: Andra Day, Trevante Rhodes, Garrett Hedlund | See full cast & crew »
Genre: Biography, Drama, Music
Rating: TV-MA/R (Nudity, strong language, graphic depictions, violence, drug use- not for children)
Runtime: 2 hours 3 minutes
Platform: Hulu (Released Feb. 26 2021)
Right back at ya, Streamers, and Black History Month is closing out with a bang. This weekend The United States vs. Billie Holiday premiered on Hulu. It is a sweet fruit that has ripened for viewing pleasure. Let’s see what this film has for you.
This prospective awards season darling follows Holiday, played by Andra Day, during her career as she is targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by a black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, Trevante Rhodes, with whom she has a tumultuous affair. (If you want the full facts of this historical depiction, please check the link below the rating.) Nevertheless, how may times can we say in a review your skinfolk ain’t always your kinfolk, but your skinfolk just trying to survive and thrive, too! More than that though, the film depicts struggle, love, addiction, talent, the power of words and the damage of drugs and unhealthy relationships. Many of us know the name Billie Holiday but have no clue who she was as a person. This movie brings some insight into what may have plagued her, but I can’t say it does her quite justice. A beautiful person can really be such a damaged piece of artwork and, boy, does Andra Day gives us all of that. Her performance is probably the sole reason to really turn this flick on. Nominated for a Golden Globe award and I presume an Academy Award nomination is in her future as well, Day gives us everything. Can I say this is how Billie was? I have no clue, but now I can’t go back. Some might say this is too much but without Day’s performance this movie would be nothing. The rest of the cast is forgettable, but I will say they did have me cracking up here and there. I don’t know whether that was intentional or unintentional, but who cares.
What I think the movie misses is the real in-depth or historical facts about the actual case. Lee Daniels is such a strong director of acting, but somewhere in the mystic of Andra’s performance he forgot to make the film cohesive. The title of this film is really taken for granted. In fact, the title isn’t even necessary because the case really takes a backseat to all of what’s really going on with Billie Holiday. The title is powerful and will pull people in to watch, but the execution of plot and storyline was the pits. You know what wasn’t the pits, the wardrobe in this movie. When I say top notch, I mean top notch. A few scenes had me saying singers and celebs could never look this good today, forgetting this movie was literally filmed in current times. Hint: you celebs need to get whoever this wardrobe team is and hire them ASAP. I mean I don’t want to harp on this point but dang Billie and cast were out here slaying it in every dang screen. EXCEPT ONE DANG-ON WIG ON THIS DUDE’S HEAD!!! You’ll see it and it can’t be unseen, but I digress.
The United States vs. Billie Holiday feels like a missed opportunity to really do justice to “the voice of the century”. Andra Day’s performance is one for the decades, but the film as a whole is one that can be forgotten. I’d be remiss to say the film itself is just a handful of popcorn without noting that Andra Day as Billie Holiday is the biggest box of popcorn. Check it out for her performance alone but be prepared to be underwhelmed by the rest.