Toni Braxton’s Lifetime biopic breaks hearts

(Variety)

(Variety)

Aaron Worley | Arts & Entertainment Editor

When the words “Lifetime biopic” are put together and released to the general public, the reaction is commonly lukewarm. Several biopics of celebrities have felt like trial and error runs, often being wished to disappear faster than when they were first announced. Honorable mentions for these duds include, “Liz and Dick” on Elizabeth Taylor played by “height-of-her-career” Lindsay Lohan and most strikingly, “Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B” as a poorly exemplified portrayal of the singer.

Now, we are introduced to Lex Scott-Davis, who plays the role of Toni Braxton in “Toni Braxton: Break My Heart”. While this biopic covers any relevant or misconstrued information about Braxton and her career, the sequence of events feels a bit formulaic. Nevertheless, it serves as a gateway to an introspective and fascinating look within Braxton’s mind, and how she responded to significant events at the start and height of her music career.

We are immediately faced with a degree of foreshadowing as the biopic begins; a tragedy occurs to Braxton and the events in the story all lead up in a sort of typical flashback direction. Although the story fulfills the satisfaction of any viewer wanting to just see how profound and delicate Braxton’s personal problems were, one cannot help but think that it could have been told in a way that offered a glimpse outside of the not-so-tried-and-true Lifetime comfort zone.

Once the plot thickens however, and the bare layer of subtleness is peeled off, the message of staying true to oneself becomes obvious, and is emphasized onward.

“We’re selling pain here” one of Babyface’s assistants played by Gavin Houston reveals, as a standout line from the movie, playing off the duplicity that makes the music industry seem as malevolent as one could imagine. There is nothing but truth here, and this marks a shift in how an artist’s views are separated from the networks that portray them in elaborate fashions.

Braxton said herself that she wanted to oversee the production of the biopic at a level closer than most artists, and the ghostly separation from how the industry is often glamorously represented makes the viewing experience emotionally consoling.

At an even deeper issue, probably one Braxton has tried to come to terms with, the debt she is faced with paints a touching, yet stirring catalyst for understanding her pain and sorrow. She is given several warnings to cut back on spending, and the costs of her lavish lifestyle embody a heavy burden, on top of other hindering events such as her pregnancy and family turmoil.

Often, these events and their counterparts feel casually passed on. They are obviously rushed because of the time constraints competing with the sheer volume of events that needed to be portrayed, but in reality, the story moves along at a rate faster than some people can comprehend.

One scene shows Braxton’s deliberation with a health specialist who suggests her child is developmentally challenged, but the conflict quickly shifts to her personal health setbacks and their slow degradation of her public performances. Simply stated, it is a little hard to follow sometimes.

From a story that very much urges the viewer to connect with the events that are displayed, the characters, besides Scott-Davis, are not allowed as deep of a connection as one would hope. For instance, the younger child Diezel has little screen time, apart from when the viewer is supposed to assume that he is “different” from the other children his age. Sure, the story is focused on Braxton, but would including the process of

Diezel’s advancement past his disorder take away that much from Braxton’s story? At times, it can be wondered: Was this event shown for empathy, or to just let people know that it happened?

As a project for hopeful compassion and understanding, “Break My Heart” succeeds. As a biopic, though, the staleness of its formula may seem too ordinary. Maybe though, in some way, shape or form, that’s alright.

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