It is the morning of his wedding to Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown is racked with crippling self-doubt. “I love her more than anything,” he wails, before explaining with the expression of a confused child: “Nobody thinks I deserve her… and maybe I don’t.”
Meanwhile, Whitney is snorting cocaine. “It’s because I’m nervous,” she tells lovelorn Bobby. When he walks in on the drug taking he looks appalled but kisses her forgivingly on the head and they head happily to the altar.
Whether these fictional scenes of the stars’ 1992 wedding have any basis in reality, we will never know. But he certainly wants us to think so.
They appear in two-part biopic The Bobby Brown Story, airing tonight and tomorrow night and produced by Brown.
It follows events from the end of his band, New Edition, in 1985 to the present. But its insight into the Grammy-winner’s volatile relationship with late star Whitney is its biggest draw.
And it seems Bobby, 49, sees this as his big chance to swing public opinion.
Bobby has always been condemned as the bad boy who set the angel-voiced soul singer on her downward spiral. He was accused of abusing Whitney and getting her hooked on drugs – a view heightened by her tragic death in 2012.
The 48-year-old was found in a bath at the Beverly Hilton with cocaine in her system. The hauntingly similar death of their girl Bobbi Kristina, aged 22, came three years later.
This film depicts young Bobby as a lost soul, entranced by and devoted to diva Whitney – who is demanding, selfish and, the film implies, possibly responsible for leading Bobby into the daily drug binges that almost killed him.
“Everyone started hating Bobby Brown when I got with you,” his character tells Whitney’s. “He’s too ghetto, he’s too ugly, he’s a leech.”
This film – which he even publicised in interviews at the hotel where Whitney died – is Bobby’s attempt to wail: “It wasn’t my fault, don’t hate me!” But he is not stupid and it could not ignore his own indiscretions.
Bobby makes no bones about his womanising. After having a baby with on/off girlfriend Kim Ward, we see him enjoying flings with groupies and an affair with pop star Janet Jackson.
Even when he gets with Whitney in 1991, we see him cheat on her with Kim – getting both pregnant at the same time. Later we witness Whitney telling Bobby on the set of her film The Bodyguard that she has miscarried. Kim goes on to have a baby.
Bobby does not shy from chronicling his own drug and alcohol use either. After the couple have Bobbi Kristina they descend into a daily drug habit.
We see him crash his car under the influence and a scene where he grabs a gun while high and accuses Whitney of trying to kill him.
The biopic does not spare the details of Whitney’s addiction.
As Bobby collapses at home, Whitney, off her head, kicks him, demands “her stuff” and leaves him for dead after a stroke.
It is a damning indictment of the singer – underlined when Bobby, who we see wake from a coma, insists: “No more drugs.”
According to this version of events, Whitney will not listen. In 2000, when Bobby is arrested, jailed for 26 days and has to go cold turkey, she keeps using. And Bobby highlights the moment he gets out – with her offering him drugs and peeved when he says he is staying clean.
As her character often asserts: “I’m Whitney Houston, nobody tells me what to do.”
Whatever the truth on who led whom down this path, what is nearly erased is any hint of alleged domestic abuse. While there is evidence of 911 calls by Whitney, Bobby denies abusing her and his film only includes one example of accidental violence.
Bobby finds Whitney has sneaked a man into their home and beats him to a pulp, catching her in the crossfire.
By this point we’re made aware Whitney had her dalliances. And throughout, Bobby ensures that Whitney’s pal and supposed gay partner Robyn Crawford is present.
It is Whitney, according to the film, who ditches Bobby and takes Bobbi Kristina. They divorced in 2007. “All I ever did was love you,” he pleads.
Towards its close the biopic must deal with Whitney and Bobbi Kristina’s deaths – and it does so neatly. We see Bobby devastated at losing his ex. When he tries to attend her funeral he is told he must leave and then snubbed by Bobbi Kristina. We are told it is two years later that his daughter makes contact and she who pleads for forgiveness and begs to meet new wife Alicia and their kids.
Tragically, however, she is later found unconscious in a bathtub, like her mum, and dies after six months in a coma. An autopsy found marijuana, alcohol, cocaine and morphine.
Bobby’s devastation is clear. But ultimately viewers are left with a cheesy image of fatherhood.
Bobby, at a barbecue, his brood gathered around him, beams with pride in the sunshine.
Once misled and misguided he is now redeemed, all indiscretions forgiven. And we are meant to ask if they were ever wholly his fault in the first place.
- The Bobby Brown Story is on tonight and tomorrow night at 10pm on BET: Sky 454, Virgin 187, Freesat 140.