“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”
Metacritic (5/10), Rotten Tomatoes (**+)
Despite fine performances by Andra Day and Trevante Rhodes, director Lee Daniels’s attempt at depicting the troubled life of jazz singer Billie Holiday becomes bogged down by a repetitive narrative and an unfocused screenplay that never quite finds its footing in a sea of competing story threads. The film’s period piece production values (especially the sets and costumes) are top shelf, as are the superb musical numbers, but the best that they and the excellent performances can do is to attempt to cover for the scattered screenplay, redundant story elements, sloppy editing and inept direction. It’s unfortunate, too, given the nature of the subject matter and empathy such material should easily be able to generate. An icon like Billie Holiday truly deserves better than this.