The United States vs. Billie Holiday

The United States vs. Billie HolidayThe United States vs. Billie Holiday

The United States vs. Billie Holiday (2021)
R | 2h 10min | Biography Drama Music

The legendary Billie Holiday one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time spent much of her career being adored by fans across the globe all while the Federal Department of Narcotics targeted her with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher with whom she had a tumultuous affair. Inspired by her life story THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY intimately examines her struggles with addiction fame and heartbreaking love.

The film is brought to the screen by two-time Academy Award nominated director Lee Daniels (The Butler Precious) from a screenplay by Suzan-Lori Parks (Girl 6 Their Eyes Were Watching God) based on the novel by Johann Hari.

Stars: Andra Day Trevante Rhodes Garrett Hedlund

Official Trailer: The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Review: The United States vs. Billie Holiday


You can safely file this one away under “major performance in a minor movie” and perhaps wait until it hits home streaming in the middle of the year. What cannot be denied here is that Andra Day's portrayal of the legendary African-American singer Billie Holiday is completely worthy of the Best Actress Oscar nomination that came her way last month.

As for the movie itself however it gets itself in one heck of a tongue-twisting tangle in trying to drive home Holiday's significance as an artist of colour in the 1940s and 50s. The FBI was no fan of “Lady Day” (as she was popularly known) and took particular offence to her signature song Strange Fruit. This confronting yet melodically alluring account of black lynchings (remarkably still permissible by US law in the years after WWII) still stands as an astonishing piece of music decades after its composition.

Holiday's interpretation was beyond definitive. Once heard it could never be forgotten. Unfortunately the movie bearing her name settles for a bulletpointed sub-Wikipedia approach to Billie Holiday a fascinating complex and contradictory soul who was so far ahead of her time it truly boggles the mind.

Review by LEIGH PAATSCH April 22 2021 issue of The Herald Sun Digital Edition. To subscribe visit

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Date/s: Friday 23rd April 2021  -  Sunday 23rd May 2021


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The United States vs. Billie Holiday

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