Starring: Taylor Swift, Joe Alwyn, Jack Antonoff
Director: Lana Wilson
Running Time: 85 mins
Taylor Swift: Miss Americana is an American documentary about the tumultuous decade in the career of singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, as she undergoes deep introspection on identity, and the true potential of her role as an international superstar.
There are hundreds of music superstars all with their own unique stories to tell, yet the behind-the-scenes music documentary genre always feels exactly the same: vapid, inconsequential and often even boastful. Just look at the brilliant parody doc Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping for that exact problem.
And yet, Taylor Swift: Miss Americana is a documentary that goes beyond the tropes of this painfully tired genre. Far more than just another behind-the-scenes experience with a major popstar, the film gives a powerful insight into a woman struggling through a tumultuous period in her life, offering up a meaningful and enthralling discussion on a number of timely political and social themes.
First things first, if you like Taylor Swift and her music, I’m sure that you’ll absolutely love this film. The first twenty minutes are a little more generic – more of a vlog-like behind-the-scenes experience in the vein of most music docs – but superfans of the singer will certainly get a lot out of that.
If you’re not a superfan, then the film does feel like it starts off on the wrong foot, but quickly begins to turn things around as it drives forward with a strikingly passionate account of Swift’s ups and down over the last decade.
Not only does this documentary give such a fascinating and revelatory insight into the psyche behind one of the most famous people on the planet, but it does it in a way that’s both emotionally sympathetic and absolutely riveting.
Starting with a look at Swift’s response to a major crisis in her career, the film opens up a riveting account of both the nature of the modern media and its treatment of celebrities, as well as an emotionally enthralling and eye-opening discussion about the inner weaknesses of celebrities brought up in a system that forces them to rely on total gratification and praise for happiness.
It’s a fascinating theme that forms the bedrock of the entire film, and offers an intelligent and fair explanation for what the world seemed to perceive as Swift ‘going off the rails’ in the mid-part of the 2010s.
And with that, it’s really rather thought-provoking too, suggesting that while Swift has been able to overcome that crisis after much hardship, there have been countless celebrities before her that have suffered a much harsher fate.
That idea plays in strongly with themes of identity, as Swift considers how her ‘nice girl’ image suffocates her emotionally, leading to her complete overhaul of a well-established persona in order to overcome the seemingly endless troubles thrown at her.
From there, the film looks at how she changed her entire outlook on the music industry, the media and, above all, herself – becoming an outspoken and politically charged public figure fighting for what she believes is right, no matter the criticism thrown at her and the potential jeopardy it could pose to her career.
In that, the film finishes with a passionate and fiery call to arms for those suffering in silence to shake off any doubts about themselves and be who they truly are – regardless of what’s expected by those around them.
You might not happen to agree with Swift’s political views and the political agenda the film takes on its latter stages, but it’s handled tenderly and intelligently, and links back brilliantly to her journey towards real fulfilment in her life and career.
So, the film’s stunning emotional depth through its middle portion and passionate and politically charged themes later on are what set this documentary apart from the rest.
It’s far less of a look at the life of just another superstar, but a riveting, powerful and eye-opening account on the nature of celebrity, proving a deeply meaningful and brilliantly insightful watch throughout. And that’s why I’m giving Taylor Swift: Miss Americana an 8.0.