Lifetime’s latest original movie is feeling the heat from fans. “Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B” aired Saturday, Nov. 15, and told the tale of up-and-coming artist Aaliyah Haughton (Alexandra Shipp) before her untimely death in 2001. While the movie received criticism prior to its premiere, fans of Aaliyah are upset with the film’s depiction of her relationship with R. Kelly (Clé Bennett) and the lack of inclusion of her deadly 2001 plane crash.
Lifetime’s movie explained how R. Kelly didn’t initially want to work with some “kid,” but was impressed by her sound after being forced to listen to her. The flick went in depth about how R. Kelly gave an “edge” to her sound and made her stand out among R&B artists. But the main focus was Aaliyah and R. Kelly’s romantic relationship.
As executive producer Wendy Williams dished in an interview prior to the premiere of “Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B,” she wanted to make sure the “truth” was told about Aaliyah and R. Kelly’s relationship.
“I was like, Look, if you’re going to make this Aaliyah movie, you gotta get it right, Lifetime,” Williams said. “I love you, you’re good at wives-who-stab-their-husbands movies, but you gotta get this Aaliyah movie right.’ ... I want to hear about R. Kelly. … Don’t skate over it. This needs to be a big plot line.”
The film certainly didn’t skate over it, but it made them star-crossed lovers. The pair wed when Aaliyah was just 15 and R. Kelly was 28. However, Aaliyah’s father forced R. Kelly to annul the marriage, threatening to go to the police. In the movie, R. Kelly agrees to the annulment and the two part ways, with Aaliyah mourning the relationship for almost five years.
WBEZ, Chicago, blogger Jim DeRogatis noted the Lifetime film completely ignored R. Kelly’s history of sexual abuse. As DeRogatis explained, Kelly was “widely rumored” to “like them young.” Civil lawsuits were filed against him for sexual relationships with underage girls. However, the big issue is the movie ignored the court documents from the annulment. Obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times in 1994, the documents state Aaliyah would not pursue legal action for “emotional distress caused by any aspect of her business or personal relationship with Robert,” or “physical injury or emotional pain and suffering arising from any assault or battery perpetrated by Robert against her person.”
Aaliyah’s 2001 death rocked the entertainment industry. A promising up-and-comer in music, the 22-year-old was also set to make a name for herself in movies. While fans didn’t want to see footage of the horrific plane crash that took her life, the ending felt weak, barely including anything on her death.
“Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B” ended with Aaliyah securing her ultimate music video in the Bahamas. The singer was excited and ready to take her career to the next level. In the final moments of the Lifetime movie she says goodbye to Damon Dash (Anthony Grant), the beau with whom she was planning a future. She promised she would be back, and he told her he’d be thinking of her every night until then. The film ended with Aaliyah driving off in the back of a limo before cutting to text saying she was killed in a 2001 plane crash.
Other complaints viewers had about the film include the casting of Missy Elliot and Timbaland (Chattrisse Dolabaille and Izaak Smith), and the lack of Aaliyah’s songs due to rights issues.