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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Premiering February 26 on Hulu / Film & TV

Like the larger-than-life character it portrays, Lee Daniels’s new movie is multifaceted. It’s a history of the vicious racism that for centuries destroyed a segment of America’s population, a truth embodied in the jazz singer’s “Strange Fruit,” the eerie song about a lynching that slithers like a snake through the film. It’s a comment on the cruel irony of the U.S. government trying to bring down a national hero, in the vein of Sam Pollard’s recent MLK/FBI. And it pulls a stellar performance from the pop and soul singer Andra Day, who manages to capture the many selves of Billie Holiday: her traumatic upbringing, the drug use that would kill her at just 44, and the impossible duality of bitter and sweet that existed in her enduring voice. —J.V.

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