“Aaliyah: Princess of R&B” premieres on Lifetime on Saturday, November 15, 2014. However, critics have already gotten a sneak peek of the made-for-television film, and many have given it negative reviews. The film is a biopic of the late singer Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash when she was only 22.
The film was criticized for a “sanitized” portrayal of the singer's inappropriate relationship with R. Kelly, whom she married when she was only 14. The pair kept their marriage a secret, but the singer's parents found out and had it annulled in court seven months later.
Jim DeRogatis said that the relationship was “far from the puppy love,” as seen in “Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B,” and that it was closer to “abuse and victimization.”
“This version of events with Kelly at the center of the film is deeply offensive not only as a hoary ‘frustrated lovers’/Romeo and Juliet cliché, but as a flagrant whitewashing of criminal sexual abuse,” DeRogatis added.
Likewise, VIBE pointed out that the biopic curiously leaves out the details of Aaliyah's relationship with Kelly and does not reveal anything new about the late singer.
Brian Lowry of Variety criticized the biopic for its thin plot and poor characterization of the singer.
“Walsh even employs a pointless split-screen effect during the several musical montages, as if grasping for a creative flourish to foster a sense of pace or excitement that simply isn’t there,” added Lowry.
The film stars Nickelodeon actress Alexandra Shipp, who is known for playing KT Rush in “House of Anubis.”
The Lifetime project had been mired in controversy since its inception. Aaliyah's family refused to support the project because they were not consulted beforehand. Moreover, the family was more interested in producing a mainstream film about the singer's life. Without the family's approval, Lifetime was not able to make use of Aaliyah's music in the movie.
Disney Channel star Zendaya was initially meant to play the role, but she bowed out of production.
“I felt like something with the production [wasn’t] all the way there,” the actress said. “If I'm going to do something for someone I care about so much, I have to do it the right way.”
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Photo source: Wikimedia Commons/Lifetime