Alexandra Shipp plays Aaliyah in Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B.
After numerous production problems
, Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B
— the biopic of the Detroit-raised star who tragically died in a plane crash at the age of 22 — will debut on Lifetime on Saturday. But according to early reviews, there are plenty problems with the movie. Aside from missing the blessing of Aaliyah's family, poor performances, and an underwhelming re-created soundtrack, the biggest problem with the movie may be the portrayal of the controversial relationship of teenage Aaliyah to her producer R. Kelly ... or the lack thereof.
Talk show host Wendy Williams, who signed on as the movie's executive producer, understood the importance of portraying the relationship accurately (the two lovers secretly wed when Aaliyah was only 15 by falsifying their marriage certificate). "I was like, ‘Look, if you’re going to make this Aaliyah movie, you gotta get it right, Lifetime. I love you, you’re good at wives who stab their husbands movies, but you gotta get this Aaliyah movie right,’" Williams has said
. "I was very popular on the radio for Aaliyah’s rise and untimely death. I want to hear about R. Kelly… Don’t skate over it. This needs to be a big plot line.”
But according to music critic Jim DeRogatis, who has long followed R. Kelly's controversies
, the truth of what happened is suspiciously absent from the screen. In DeRogatis's words
, the movie's portrayal of Aaliyah's and Kelly's "Romeo and Juliet" relationship, played by actors Alexandra Shipp as Aaliyah and Clé Bennett as Kelly, is downright offensive — "a flagrant whitewashing of criminal sexual abuse," he says. Kelly is portrayed as an "an innocent charmer," not an abusive man with many well-documented illegal sexual relationships with underage girls. "[E]veryone involved with the film missed the opportunity to provide a stark example and a cautionary tale of how even smart, strong, and self-assured young girls can be victimized by older sexual predators, especially if those men are rich and famous," he wrote.
It's just another example of how Kelly's crimes are glossed over by the media. There's still a chance to get it right, though, as Aaliyah's family is still holding out for their own biopic that will hopefully get a wider release. Read DeRogatis's full takedown here
, and check out a teaser for the movie below.