Miss Americana (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): Taylor Swift on her life and career

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Netflix documentary film “Miss Americana” attempts to give us a close and intimate look into the life and career of Taylor Swift, who has been one of the most popular pop stars in the world since she suddenly rose to the top in 2006. Although it occasionally looks like your average fan service, the documentary mostly succeeds in its earnest presentation of Swift’s personal and professional struggles, and you will probably come to admire how much this talented singer/songwriter has tried to go on in addition to being true to herself and her artistry.

After showing Swift being disappointed with her sixth album “Reputation” not getting nominated for Grammy in 2018, the documentary gives us a brief summary of the early years of her career. Shortly before entering her adolescent period, Swift went to Nashville, Tennessee along with her encouraging parents for pursuing her nascent music career, and, thanks to her considerable musical talent, it did not take much time for her to draw lots of draw attention from the media and public as a young promising country music singer/songwriter to watch. In 2006, she released her first album although she was only 17, and its huge popularity was just the prelude to bigger successes to come for her.

However, like many female pop music stars out there, Swift soon came to deal with lots of pressures and obstacles here and there. While getting more popularity and success as expected, she found herself frequently scrutinized and criticized by the media and public, and then she was ambushed by that humiliating incident which happened at the 2009 MTV Music Video Awards. When she was delivering the acceptance speech for an award she had just received on the stage, Kanye West rudely disrupted the scene and then claimed that the award should have gone to Beyoncé, and Taylor tells us about how much she felt hurt and embarrassed as believing the following boos from the audiences were directed at her. While West got away with that boorish deed as only getting a slap on his wrist (He even made a song about it several years later, by the way), Swift had no choice but to suppress her bad feelings in front of many reporters asking for her opinion on the incident, and that certainly reminded her again of how sexist the industry she belongs is in many aspects.

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In front of the camera, Swift frankly confides to us on how much she had been occupied with presenting herself well enough to be liked by her fans and audiences out there as usual. Although she does not delve that deep into those dark moments of hers, she tells us about a moment when she came to realize the importance of eating well for her health and career, and that was when she began to be less concerned about how she looks to others.

As being true to herself more than before, Swift decided to become more active in public, and that is why she came to express her political position on the Internet in 2018. When she showed her objection to the Republican candidate for a US Senate seat representing Tennessee due to the bigoted social/political position of that candidate, she certainly drew lots of public attention as expected, and she was happy to see some positive effect from openly expressing her social/political belief, though the eventual result of the election turned out to be pretty disappointing for her.

Nevertheless, Swift kept moving on as before, and the documentary sometimes shows her working on her next album “Lover” along with her close colleagues including Joel Little. I must confess that I am not that familiar with her music career, but I could clearly sense that she is indeed as good as I heard from others, and, as a guy approaching to 40, I wanted to tell her not to worry a lot about being 30. Yes, she surely has gone some ups and downs, but she has fortunately endured and prevailed in contrast to Amy Winehouse, and I am sure that she will eventually survive the consequence of appearing in “Cats” (2019).

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The documentary also focuses a bit on Swift’s personal relationships, but I must point out that it does not provide anything particularly revealing to us. While her relationship with her parents is affectionate to say the least, we only come to learn a few things about them including her mother’s recent health problem. In case of her current romantic relationship, Swift chooses not to talk about her current boyfriend much, though you may recognize him when the camera briefly captures his face during one scene. To be frank with you, the most memorable figure in the documentary besides Swift is probably her pet cat, which cannot help but steal the show whenever it appears in front of the camera.

Anyway, director Lana Wilson, who previously made “After Tiller” (2013) and “The Departure” (2017), did a competent job of conveying to us Swift’s humanity and personality, though I think she could go further for making the documentary more revealing and enlightening. Like Lady Gaga did in documentary film “Gaga: Five Foot Two” (2017), Swift has a full control on how to present herself in the documentary, and it sometimes looks like she does not go all the way for revealing more of herself, but I guess that is understandable, considering how much she values some privacy for herself.

Overall, “Miss Americana” is a mild but fairly engaging documentary, and I was entertained enough despite recognizing its weak aspects from time to time. As far as I can see from the documentary, Swift is talented enough to advance further during next several decades, and I am sure that she will have more things to show and tell in front of the camera after going through her life and career a lot more than before.

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