The United States vs. Billie Holiday

    The United States vs. Billie Holiday


    Billie Holiday spent much of her career being adored by fans. In the 1940s, the government targeted Holiday in a growing effort to racialize the war on drugs, ultimately aiming to stop her from singing her controversial ballad, "Strange Fruit."

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    • Andra DayBillie Holiday
    • Trevante RhodesJimmy Fletcher
    • Garrett HedlundHarry Anslinger
    • Leslie JordanReginald Lord Devine
    • Miss LawrenceMiss Freddy
    • Adriane LenoxMrs. Fletcher
    • Natasha LyonneTallulah Bankhead
    • Rob MorganLouis McKay
    • Da'Vine Joy RandolphRoslyn
    • Evan RossAgent Williams


    • 70


      This is gripping stuff, to be sure, yet the movie, volatile as it is, lacks a full dramatic center and the momentum that would flow out of it.
    • 63

      Movie Nation

      It’s a bio-pic that keeps its brilliant, sultry, complicated subject at arm’s length.
    • 63

      Slant Magazine

      The film finds its purpose most pointedly when it zeroes in on the unambiguous relationship between Holiday and “Strange Fruit.”
    • 63

      USA Today

      Even with its imperfections, “Billie Holiday” tells a needed story and along the way introduces a bright new Hollywood star to watch.
    • 60

      The Hollywood Reporter

      Day mesmerizes even when Lee Daniels' unwieldy bio-drama careens all over the map with stylistic inconsistency and narrative dysfunction, settling for episodic electricity in the absence of a robust connective thread. It's a mess, albeit an absorbing one, driven by a raw central performance of blistering indignation, both tough and vulnerable.
    • 60

      Arizona Republic

      It’s mostly a biography of Holiday — nothing wrong with that, certainly when you’ve got a performance as stunning as Andra Day’s in the title role.
    • 58


      Much like “Precious” and the Daniels-produced “Monster’s Ball” before it, The United States vs. Billie Holiday is somehow overbaked and raw as a bone at the same time, at all times. And much like those previous films, this one swirls around an astonishingly real performance that centers everything around it like the eye of a storm
    • 50

      The A.V. Club

      Day, who’s very good, moves through it with comfort and charisma. Her Billie Holiday is as much a star in the green room as she is onstage, faced with applause or the harsh bathroom-mirror reflection of abuse and addiction. But many of the other characters might as well be reading off of cue cards.