Movie Review: Miss Americana
Most that know me would certainly dismiss my music taste as bizarre, limited and frankly a crime against the passion and talent that goes into the musical industry on the whole. A blatant spit in the face of anything that isn’t Britpop, 80s New Wave or a sprinkling soft spot for Frank Sinatra. So no, I guess you cannot label me as a ‘Swifty’, the abbreviated fan name for Taylor Swift, whose life has been documented in the latest Netflix documentary, Miss Americana.
There’s something quite jarring about heading into a documentary about someone you’ve not taken much notice of. I was undeterred, you shouldn’t really need much background information to head into a documentary on a big-name figure or event. When I watched Icarus, I had no interest in the Winter Olympics, Russia or the people involved, yet I finished that documentary feeling enriched and terrified after the events I witnessed over two hours of tantalising, boundary pushing filmmaking and journalism. With Miss Americana, all I knew of Swift was through listening to her frankly mediocre Red album.
Following more or less the entire few years of Swift’s life, Miss Americana looks to document someone that has fallen in and out of love with the press rather rapidly over the past decade or so of her musical career. By all means is Swift a talented individual, and while her work may not be for me, there are definite signs of unstoppable material littered throughout her works. It’s a shame that this never comes to fruition throughout a documentary that relies on seeing an emotionally charged Swift complain and cry about pretty much anything.
From Trump to Grammy awards, Kanye and her personal strive for stardom, just about everything is documented in more or less minimal detail. There’s an overarching feeling that the documentary isn’t planned out in any cohesive manner, which is strange since documentaries that throw aside narrative functionality are often those that look to depict an event that is stuck in a tight time period. With Miss Americana, I struggle to see the need in warranting such a bizarre, overly detailed piece in a film that simply doesn’t have the time to discuss Swift’s career, relationship with the press or her eventual and inevitable political statements.
All three aforementioned examples are included to varying degrees, none are exactly performed to perfection but at least they feature throughout somewhat. The last forty minutes of the film are eaten up by Swift’s political standing with her new music, intercut with scenes of her crying. I know nothing about Swift, but gaging what I could, she’s rather emotional about the most strenuously uninteresting of topics. There are moments throughout that feel like Swift is playing it up for the sake of the documentary, and that lingering feeling of a ingenuine persona lingers throughout the film in an uncomfortable manner.
Instantly forgettable, much like her music, Miss Americana is a bloated piece of film that doesn’t really know what it wants to do with itself. For newcomer fans of Swift then you may be surprised at just how slapdash the documentary is, leaping from just about every aspect of her professional and personal life trying to cram as much as it possibly can into a measly eighty-minute spectacle of concerts and brief fluttering behind the scenes content. It’s not like Netflix don’t know how to create a musical documentary, look no further than Gaga: Five foot Two for proof of that, yet something has gone thoroughly wrong with Miss Americana, and perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise that it’s over rather swiftly.