21st April 2021 Written by Peter Walkden
The United States Vs Billie Holiday follows the career of the talented jazz singer Billie Holiday. We witness many highlights from Billie’s life, including some of the romances she had and summits of her musical career. Taking a deep look at the many tragic moments and complicated challenges of her life, we see her drug addiction as well as the racism, violence, and sexual abuse she suffered. We also witness the Federal Department’s determination to stop her from singing ‘Strange Fruit’, attempting to frame her or catch her in possession of drugs.
Andra Day’s performance as Billie Holiday is terrific and tremendous. Her work here in bringing Billie to life is so positive I could not help but be compassionate towards Billie, and it is truly something powerful to see on the big screen.
The soundtrack is a knockout. There are no magical dance numbers but many stunning musical tracks with Billie and her band performing on stage. This music is an excellent element and sensational ingredient.
As a plot, this film is pretty loaded. Rather than using one element from Billie’s life to deliver a powerful message to its audience, the film has crammed in many plot points from Billie’s life. At times, it almost feels a little unsure which message will be the film’s prime focus. For the most part, the film’s pacing was great, but the third act had some issues for me. As it wobbled towards its finale, many moments felt repetitive and vague, becoming tiring to see. Viewers should also be aware that this film contains high-level drug use and nudity. While I understand this was an attempt to make the movie feel raw and powerful, some moments, including lengthy sex scenes, feel as if they have no real purpose to the film and felt unnecessary.
Overall, I found this film to be quite fascinating. The film’s major highlight is the stunning and tremendous performance by Andra Day, who is highly believable as Billie Holiday. The soundtrack is terrific! For the most part, I enjoyed the movie, but it has a third act that felt repetitive and wobbles to its finish line. No matter- the film left me with multiple feelings due to its many topics and subplots from Billie’s personal life.
The United States Vs. Billy Holiday (2021) is Now Available on Digital!