Grammy nominee Andra Day stars in "The United States vs. Billie Holiday."

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The men, all white, gather together for a group photo. Some look serious, others smile awkwardly for the camera. It could be a staged photo taken for a business newsletter or to hang on the wall at a men's social club.

Until we see that the men are posing behind the body of a Black man, burned beyond recognition.

It was horrifying images like that which haunted jazz singer Billie Holiday whenever she sang “Strange Fruit,” the powerful 1939 song about lynchings in the South. Director Lee Daniels opens his biopic “The United states vs. Billie Holiday” with that photo, and as meandering and unfocused as the film can get, that image and the anger it evokes never dissipates.

[Tell your friends who liked 'The Undoing' about Amazon's 'Tell Me Your Secrets']

The film, which premiered on Hulu Friday, looks at the harassment and intimidation campaign that government officials waged against Holiday in the last decade of her life, ostensibly for her heroin use, but really in an attempt to muzzle her from singing “Strange Fruit.” “The jazz music is the devil’s work,” rages Harry Aislinger, the FBI’s anti-drug czar, played as a snarling comic-book villain by Garrett Hedlund. But Holiday refuses to back down, and pays the price.

Holiday is played by singer Andra Day, and Daniels and screenwriter Suzan Lori-Parks seem to delight in contrasting the poise and control she has on stage with the chaos of her personal life. Day is mesmerizing as Holiday sings “Solitude” before an adoring crowd, which Daniels intercuts with images of Holiday shooting up in a filthy bathroom stall, the needle going into her vein shown in graphic close-up.

The film is full of scenes of Holiday being abused and degraded by the men in her life, including her cruel husband/manager. The violence eventually crosses the line from realistic to exploitative, Daniels seeming to wallow in Holiday’s misery. The only man in her life who appears to care for her is Fletcher (Travante Rhodes) — but he’s an FBI agent who is feeding information back to Aislinger, although at least he’s anguished at betraying Holiday.

The film hops from episode to episode in Holiday’s life, and at times abandons its pedestrian storytelling for some truly baroque scenes, such as a heroin-fueled dream sequence that transitions from Holiday as a girl being prostituted by her mother to being a woman coming across a lynching victim while on tour in the South, and then finally walking on stage at Carnegie Hall to sing “Strange Fruit.” The performance is devastating, and Day’s fierce, wounded presence is often the only thing keeping the film from coming apart at the seams.

“The United States vs. Billie Holiday” is the latest in a series of recent movies (“Judas and the Black Messiah,” “MLK/FBI”) that reveal how the government waged a secret (and not-so-secret) war against civil rights leaders and prominent Black figures. “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” is the least of them, but Holiday’s courage, and the power of an explosive song, still shine through.

Also on streaming: Scandinavian noir meets “The Mighty Ducks” in “Beartown,” a five-episode limited series that premiered this week on HBO MAX. The series follows a washed-up NHL player who returns to his hometown to coach the local hockey team, but his attempt at redemption takes a dark turn.

[Waunakee native Derek Endres plays himself in Oscar frontrunner 'Nomadland']

After watching “Framing Britney Spears” on Hulu, why not watch a documentary about a pop star who has a good relationship with her family? “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry,” premiering Friday on Apple TV+, shows how Eilish’s family plays a key role in the pop star’s creative life as well as keeping her grounded.

Goodbye, CBS All Access, hello Paramount+. Beginning next Thursday, ViacomCBS is rebranding its streaming service promising lots more content, drawing from Paramount Studios’ century-old library as well as new shows. The big news, at least for some of us at the Cap Times, is that those new shows will include a reboot of “Frasier.” Although if they don’t bring Niles back, thanks but no thanks.