The United States vs. Billie Holiday – Movie Review

TL;DR – A film with one of the best individual performances I have seen in a long time, bolstered by an amazing supporting cast but ultimately held back by some odd stylistic choices.    

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene.

Warning – Depicts scenes of abuse.

Disclosure – I was invited to a screening of this film.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday Review

Billie Holiday has one of those voices that you can instantly pick out. It has this uncanny ability to be soft and harsh all at once. When writing this review, I wondered when the first time was I had heard a recording of her performing? And it could have been off one of my grandfather’s records as he always had Jazz and Big Band playing. Or at the very least, it was on one of the radio stations in Fallout. But knowing about her voice, I realised before watching this film that I did not know much about her life at all. Well, today, I help fix that with a movie that charts some of the struggles she faced.

So to set the scene, we open with an older Billie (Andra Day) as she and her manager Miss Freddy (Miss Lawrence), sits down with interviewer Reginald Lord Devine (Leslie Jordan) to chart her life and explore why the government is so opposed to her. Well, we flashback in time to 1947, as a young soldier Jimmy Fletcher (Trevante Rhodes) makes his way to a jazz club in New York City where Billie is about to perform a complete set, including the one song no one but the audience wants her to sing Strange Fruit. Someone who especially wants her to stop the song is Agent Harry J. Anslinger (Garrett Hedlund) from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

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