The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Watch The United States vs. Billie Holiday

  • R
  • 2021
  • 2 hr 10 min
  • 6.3  (14,521)
  • 52

The United States vs. Billie Holiday is a biographical drama film that portrays the life of legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday and her struggles with addiction, racism, and the government's attempts to silence her. The movie opens in the 1940s, with Billie Holiday (played by Andra Day) having just sung her iconic protest song "Strange Fruit" to a predominantly white audience. The song's controversial lyrics and Holiday's refusal to stop performing it despite its explicit condemnation of lynching, soon puts her in the crosshairs of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), headed by the ruthless Harry J. Anslinger (Garret Hedlund).

The story then shifts to show Holiday's early years in Baltimore, where she grew up poor and single-handedly supported her family by singing in seedy nightclubs. Her rocky relationships and affairs with men, including her former husband, the abusive Jimmy Monroe (Erik LaRay Harvey) reveal her vulnerability and the underlying pain she suffered throughout her life.

The film also delves deeply into Holiday's struggles with addiction to heroin, which began when she was given drugs by her first manager, John Levy (Tone Bell) as a way to cope with the stresses of her life on the road. Her addiction is portrayed in a raw and unglamorous manner, without glossing over the physical and emotional toll it took on her.

As Holiday's fame and success grow, so too does the government's interest in her. Anslinger, who is on a mission to stamp out what he sees as the "evil" of narcotics, sees Holiday as a prime target. He enlists one of his agents, Jimmy Fletcher (Trevante Rhodes), to infiltrate her inner circle and gather evidence against her.

Fletcher initially refers to Holiday as a "junkie" and seems to have little sympathy for her, but as he gets to know her, he begins to understand the injustices she faced and the pain she carried with her. Rhodes delivers a standout performance as Fletcher, who is torn between his loyalty to the FBN and his growing feelings for Holiday.

Holiday's personal and professional life collide in the film's climactic scene, which takes place at a concert in Southern California. Despite warnings from her lawyers and even her own manager, Holiday sings "Strange Fruit" and is promptly arrested by the FBN.

Throughout the film, Day brings to life Holiday's unique singing style and adds depth to her portrayal of the singer's struggles with addiction, racism, and trauma. Although the movie is at times difficult to watch due to the graphic depictions of violence, drug use, and racism, it ultimately celebrates Holiday's legacy and her unwavering commitment to speaking out against injustice.

In addition to its strong performances, The United States vs. Billie Holiday is visually stunning, with gorgeous cinematography and attention to detail that transports viewers back to the 1940s. It also features an incredible soundtrack that includes some of Holiday's most famous songs, including "God Bless the Child" and "Lady Sings the Blues."

Overall, The United States vs. Billie Holiday is a powerful and affecting film that sheds light on the many challenges that Holiday faced throughout her life. Despite the obstacles she faced, Holiday remained true to herself and her beliefs, and her legacy as a trailblazer and icon still shines brightly today.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday
The United States vs. Billie Holiday doesn't appear to be available from any streaming services.
Add this movie to your Watchlist to get notified when it's available.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    2 hr 10 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.3  (14,521)
  • Metascore