'The United States vs. Billie Holiday': How to Watch the New Music Biopic

The United States vs. Billie Holiday is the latest splashy music biopic on the scene and will be available to stream tomorrow, Feb. 26. As is apparent from the title, the film follows the pioneering jazz songstress, Billie Holiday, and her fight against the U.S. government’s attempts to silence her.

Originally planned to release theatrically through Paramount Pictures, The United States vs. Billie Holiday was picked up by a streaming service instead, on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. But which service will you need to check out the Golden-Globe-nominated drama?

‘The United States vs. Billie Holiday’ hails from director Lee Daniels

Unlike the many musician biopics that keep things squarely focused on the music and personal struggles, The United States vs. Billie Holiday strives to keep things political, just like Holiday herself. The plot concerns the efforts of the federal government in the 1940s to target the popular singer, both in the pursuit to escalate the racially-biased war on drugs and to prevent her from performing “Strange Fruit.”

Originally released in 1939, Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” is today as famous as it is haunting. A melancholy protest ballad against the mass lynchings of Black Americans in the decades prior, the song has, according to the New York Times, been called an early catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement.

Singer Andra Day takes the lead as Holiday, in only her third acting role ever. It seems to have gone well for her, as she was recently nominated for Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama) by the Golden Globes. Day is best known for her stirring single, “Rise Up,” off of her debut album, Cheers to the Fall, from 2016. The song and the album were nominated for Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Album by the Grammys, respectively.

The rest of the cast is rounded out by Moonlight‘s Trevante Rhodes, Natasha Lyonne, Garrett Hedlund, Tone Bell, and Rob Morgan.

Lee Daniels directed The United States vs. Billie Holiday. He is best known for the films Precious and The Butler, as well as for creating the hit music industry series, Empire.

Here’s where to stream it

Hulu acquired The United States vs. Billie Holiday once Paramount decided against a theatrical release for it, according to outlets like Variety. As of tomorrow, that’s where viewers will be able to access the title exclusively.

Hulu has been receptive to big studios selling off their smaller films in light of the pandemic. In 2020, the streamer acquired the controlling mother thriller Run from Lionsgate and the Christmas-themed lesbian rom-com Happiest Season from Sony Pictures. Both of those films premiered on Hulu last November.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday has had a mixed critical response, leaning slightly towards positive. Day’s lead performance has received just about universal praise, but criticisms have been leveled against the bloated and occasionally unfocused screenplay from Suzan-Lori Parks. It currently sports a 61% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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