When I first heard the rumors of an Aaliyah biopic being in the works I was ecstatic. As a huge fan of the super cool singer/actress whose untimely death shocked the world, I thought hers was a story that needed to be told. Then it was confirmed that it would not be in theaters, but a Lifetime TV movie. That was when my first reservation about the film set in. I thought Aaliyah’s story deserved to be in theaters but okay. Then Zendaya Coleman was casted as Aaliyah and it was made known that Aaliyah’s family was not in support of the film. Further doubt crept in. Then Zendaya backed out amidst the public’s disapproval and the role was re-cast. Finally Alexandria Shipp was cast as Aaliyah and radio/TV personality Wendy Williams publicly announced her role as executive producer of the film. That’s when my hope for a film that would honor the memory of Aaliyah went out window. The film aired on Lifetime last weekend and as anticipated, it was an epic fail. Here’s why I think the film never had a chance.
- Bad Casting: None of the actors, including Alexandria Shipp, looked, spoke or had body language remotely close to those who they were to be portraying. The biggest part of a biopic where the public is familiar with the characters is to make us feel like we are watching the people who we have come to know. I was in no way emotionally attached to these people because I didn’t see them as the characters. The casting was so bad that there were points where I had to figure out who they were supposed to be.
- Family & Friends Disapproval: The family of Aaliyah and her close personal friends like Timbaland and Missy were not involved in the film and actually protested its production. I strongly feel that if they felt the movie would be a positive and accurate depiction of her life, they would have been on board. The fact they were not was a clear indication that the movie would not be accurate.
- No Original Music: Because the family disapproved of the film, they refused to allow Aaliyah’s original music to be included in the film. This should have really been the point where the film production was shut down. How do produce a biopic where the original music from the artist is not included? Aaliyah’s sound was so unique and duplication should not have been attempted.
- Plot Development: Aaliyah’s story was unfortunately short but it was much more than what was depicted in the _ hour film. Where were the other people who played intricate roles in her life and career? Where was the group Playa and its member Static Major who worked with Aaliyah often? There was also no transitional flow. If you didn’t already know a bit about Aaliyah, the film would have been almost impossible to follow.
- Wendy Williams as Executive Producer: With no backing from the family or friends of Aaliyah, the biopic should have been taken off the table while working to gain the trust of the family to pull together an accurate story that everyone could be happy with. Instead, Wendy Williams came onboard as an Executive Producer and chose to spearhead this messy story based on rumors. I think it’s safe to say that her career in film has ended before it even got started.
There are two things I came away hoping after watching this movie: (1) That the family agrees to the proper production of an accurate film based on Aaliyah’s life, because this can’t be the only reference for people to seek out when wanting to learn about her, and (2) that this isn’t indicative of what we can expect for the Whitney Houston biopic which will also be aired on Lifetime.
What did you think of the film? If you were disappointed like me, here’s a few of my favorite Aaliyah videos to remind you of who Aaliyah REALLY was.