CHENNAI: It is never easy to write a biography or direct a biopic about living celebrities in today’s PR-driven world, but filmmaker Lana Wilson — of “After Tiller” fame — manages to offer a less than sugary sweet vision of pop star Taylor Swift in her new documentary, “Miss Americana.”
The 85-minute documentary — which premiered at Sundance in January and is now streaming on Netflix — presents a seemingly balanced view of Swift and the more unsavory aspects of the song writer and musician’s life.
Swift spent the first few years of her career, which she launched at the tender age of 14, carefully cultivating a good girl image and the documentary does a stellar job at highlighting Swift’s obsession with being appreciated, admired and loved by her millions of fans. Swift is captured on camera distraught when her album, “Reputation,” receives no attention when the 2018 Grammy nominations are announced. She had already won the coveted trophy on multiple occasions and, as I can see it, is thirsting for more and more admiration, rather than the prize itself. Approval can be a big issue with stars and Swift seems particularly desperate for this — something that is perhaps understandable in the fickle world of social media-driven exposure.
The Netflix-streamed documentary lets watchers in on the pressures of being a star in a world where thousands of users can take to Twitter in an instant to proclaim they hate you — something the young talent has had to contend with while a camera crew captured her in tears.
From an eating disorder, unveiled for the first time in the documentary, to her mother’s illnesses and Swift’s decision to use her voice to make political statements — she famously went public with her criticism of President Donald Trump in 2016 after years of staying silent on American politics — fans can expect a varied look at the ups and downs of the now 30-year-old pop star’s life.
However, where Wilson slips is her inability to show us more about Taylor's song writing skills, which launched her to superstardom in the first place. The documentary could have benefited with a behind-the-scenes look at Swift’s song-writing techniques, which would have allowed fans to better understand her immense talent.