Beyoncé's HBO Doc
Real insight or PR from a pop princess?
By James Renovitch,
2:20PM, Fri. Feb. 15, 2013
What I want from a Beyoncé documentary is insight. Or maybe grainy footage of a four-member Destiny's Child singing in community centers and hair salons before their big break. If nothing else, I want live performances of the hits. Instead the doc airing tomorrow on HBO is a State of the Beyoncé Address. And it turns out that everything is honky dory with her.
There's no need for a spoiler alert here: Beyoncé loves her husband! (What!?) Beyoncé is emotional about having a child. (Crazy!) Being famous is hard. (Single tear.) She proves these points through excerpts from an "in depth" interview and, naturally, a lyrics from precious few live performances. The songs that dovetail best with her emotional state are sadly lesser singles like "Resentment" and "Run the World (Girls)." Since she's happily married – a point she reiterates throughout the doc – a performance of "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" just wouldn't fit. The most enjoyable musical moments in the doc are impromptu affairs like Destiny's Child dramatizing the Cardigans' "Lovefool" in a kitchen to a laptop as well as Jay-Z and B mauling Coldplay's "Yellow" while on a date.
For those moments and more it's hard not to love Beyoncé. She looks great even though her mom still dresses her. Her songs are catchy enough to make you want to drunkenly grab a microphone from Taylor Swift and sing her praises. Not to mention her median ass-to-floor speed would make Isaac Newton blush. But, when someone puts together a documentary about an artist you expect a to get under the surface.
A lot of the footage comes from Beyoncé's webcam, which she uses like a confessional. But anyone versed in reality TV tropes – and isn't that everyone these days – you know that the confessional is as much a part of the act as anything else. It doesn't help that she looks flawless, even when confiding to her Macbook just before falling asleep (see pic). It also doesn't help that Beyoncé is most certainly looking out for No. 1 as co-director and co-writer of Life Is but a Dream.
The weirdest confession perhaps might be when, in a down moment, she says, "I think I need to listen to 'Make Love to Me' and make love to my husband." She's referring to "1+1," but the fact that her own tune puts her in the mood? That's some Prince-caliber solipsistic weirdness. And exactly the kind of stuff I want to hear. It's a shame that's one of only a handful of real insights into the Super Bowl worthy artist.
Then again, maybe her public persona and private self are one and the same. After all she does, perhaps unwittingly, use a circus slogan to sum up her existence: "That's what life is. It's the greatest show on earth."