By Carmen Glover
After enjoying the thoughtful, well-delivered film “Beyond the Lights” at the movie theater on Saturday, November 15, my husband and I ordered in and tuned in to Lifetime’s much-hyped biopic “Aaliyah: Princess of R& B.” It was an exercise in futility, a colossal disappointment on every level imaginable. And irate Aaliyah fans let loose on Twitter, unleashing their wrath as the scenes unfolded to reveal a combination of inferior acting, incomprehensible casting choices and what seemed more like an ode to R. Kelly’s predatory, pedophile-like history, instead of the promised tribute to the beautiful, talented entertainer who died much too soon.
While Alexandra Shipp did her best dressing like Aaliyah and performing “Let Me Know,” it was impossible for her to fully channel the tragic entertainer. For instance, Shipp covered one eye with her hair a total of one time throughout the two-hour movie, even though that was the way Aaliyah was usually seen in public. Also, as the film began and for close to an hour, the focus was on Aaliyah’s involvement with R. Kelly, who married her secretly at the age of 15, when he was 26.
Across the US, it is considered statutory rape for anyone to have sexual contact with a child, under the age of 18. Yet the film seemed hell-bent on trying to romanticize what was a predatory relationship, regardless of what spin Lifetime’s and the movie’s executives desperately tried to pretty it up. Kelly’s exploits with under-aged girls are well-known and he has the many court charges and appearances to prove it. Nevertheless, Lifetime, Wendy Williams, Debra Martin Chase and all the other persons associated with this disgraceful material felt comfortable framing half of a so-called Aaliyah movie in the context of a “relationship” with Kelly.
Then there was the casting, which defied logic entirely. While Shipp is stunningly beautiful and has modest talent as a singer, she was unable to accurately convey Aaliyah’s range, dexterity and passion as a singer, dancer and actress, but she did the best she could. Who thought is was a good idea to cast a Derek Luke look-alike as Aaliyah’s uncle, a Drake look-alike as her brother Rashad, a Joe look-alike as Kelly, a hybrid of a skinny basketball player and a light-skinned person as the much darker, shorter, rounder Damon Dash, a light-skinned, skinny Missy Elliot and a thin, curly-haired Timbaland who looked like a school boy? Who signed off on such an atrocity? Taking to Instagram, Timbaland dismissed the movie and urged people not to watch it, which was a silly move. How else will you know what it is like unless you watch it to the end?
Williams promoted the film relentlessly on her show and urged her viewers to watch the film. She should be ashamed of herself for having her name associated with this epic failure. So should Martin Chase. The fact that they lacked the family’s approval to play Aaliyah’s music does not mean that they could not have produced a movie that told her story with respect, addressed the Kelly debacle in ten minutes or so, showed her acting in “Romeo Must Die,” and “Queen of the Damned,” devoted appropriate time, care and attention to her successful alliance with Timbaland and Elliot as well as her relationship with Dash.
After all, the template for the film was provided by the book,”Aaliyah: More than a Woman,” written by a respected journalist, Christopher John Farley, a Jamaica-born industry veteran who worked at Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal and has been interviewed often on television about music matters. The Lifetime movie did not provide solid information for fans who were not born when Aaliyah was alive. Lifetime, Williams and Martin Chase have crossed the line and caused more harm than they could have imagined with this awful movie that elicited enormous feelings of anger, disappointment and shock. Shame on Lifetime! Shame on Wendy Williams! Shame on Debra Martin Chase!–OnPointPress.net.