As more and more 90s R&B/ Hip-Hop stars have biopics released on cable, increasingly you are left wondering what is there to reveal? With the internet giving us every last facet of their lives, what can a biopic give us that we haven’t already known and seen for years? That was the question I had going into Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart and the one I had as it finished.
Characters & Story (with Commentary)
From discovery to “Love, Marriage & Divorce,” viewers get a taste of Toni Braxton’s [Lex Scott Davis] life with the majority of the topics covered being common knowledge for fans, and there not being much in the way of surprises. Some examples of what are covered are her multiple bankruptcies, her marriage and divorce to Keri Lewis [Andre Hall], her discovering she has Lupus, the start of The Braxton Family Values, her parents Evelyn [Debbi Morgan] and father’s divorce, and barely the ups and downs of her career.
Ms. Evelyn, Is That You?: Debbi Morgan, if you are familiar with Evelyn Baxter on any of the Braxton’s family reality programs, pretty much nails that woman on the head. I mean, from mannerisms to the way the woman’s makeup is done, there is no questioning that actress is playing Toni’s mother. Same goes for Toni’s dad too but his role isn’t big enough in the movie to highlight.
The Hits Are There and Sung By Toni: While it is always nice when the actress can sing and show off her talent, there is nothing better than the singer you know just doing her own songs.
Shallow In Depth and Focused Solely On Already Available Information: For 90s public figures and forward, there is going to be this continuous issue of what can be brought to a biopic which constitutes an audience watching it? I mean, for artists like Toni Braxton, likely it is going to be the case of seeing if it is going to be like the CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story or the train wreck which was Aaliyah: Princess of R&B. Which, to me, it is a sad mix of both.
It is like the TLC telepic in terms of covering the hits well, and getting all the facts, but then comes the Aaliyah telepic comparisons in terms of the acting not being the best, and it feeling like they are holding back immensely. Take for example the topic of Toni Braxton, in her book, speaking about how she felt her son was given autism due to her having an abortion, that isn’t noted here. Also, there is no real mention of how her records were no longer selling, but instead a focus on how she couldn’t really perform anymore due to Lupus.
Making it seem Toni didn’t want to really expose too much of herself. Leading to the question of: why make the movie then?
Who In The World Are They?: Outside of Evelyn, Toni’s Dad, and Babyface, everyone else doesn’t look like their real life counterpart at all. Toni’s sisters especially seem like a bunch of random actresses who didn’t cost too much but weren’t so horrible that Toni would have to deal with the ego of her sisters or Twitter memes.
How Can You Make A Real Story Seem Like It Is “Based on True Events”: Whether it is the acting, not enough focus on certain situations or issues, or omitting topics which could have helped us feel like they are trying to explore Toni Braxton the person, something felt off with this film. Almost to the point, it felt like the type of film in which the “Based on True Events” label is usually added. For sometimes this story really does seem fictional, like someone came up with everything that happened here and just kept throwing stuff at the lead character to hope you stay interested, and then they threw in wannabe Tamar [Tiffany Hines, though better played by the younger actress] and Evelyn for comic relief.
On The Fence
When Your Mother Damn Near Upstages You In Your Own Movie: Attribute this to the criticism of us having easy access to Toni’s business, but I must say often Debbi Morgan stole every scene, and damn near stole the movie. Which I’m sort of on the fence about for this movie isn’t about her, and a part of me feels like Morgan slightly played her over the top. Not so much that it comes off campy, but between Toni not allowing too much of herself in the film, perhaps not giving Lex Scott Davis enough to work with, it makes Debbi Morgan seem extra in comparison.
Final Thought(s): Skip It
I didn’t even know this movie came out until this morning, and I can see why. To me, like many tele-pics coming out nowadays, this is a vanity project. For while I’m sure there was time, money, and lots of energy put into this, it is hard to watch it and think this film needed to be made and seen. I mean, call me negative if you will, but I really do believe that there is a lot of darkness brushed over, or omitted, and what we are given seems watered down. Add in performances by actors who are just good enough, with the exception of Debbi Morgan who is so good it makes you want an Evelyn tele-pic, and it really makes you wonder what was the point here?
Thus leading to the decision to give this a “Skip It” label for this to me shows what happens when an artist, or their estate, has a biopic done and aren’t willing to for the artist to be portrayed in a light which makes them seem too flawed or real.