In the female-popstar-documentary pantheon, Miss Americana reminds us of a lot of Lady GaGa’s Five Foot Two. The documentary talks about why is it so important for Taylor Swift to be seen as a good girl, and so important for people to like her? The answer to the latter is easy – because it’s a basic human desire. It’s the first question that the documentary focuses most on unpacking. And it’s no surprise that a girl who grew up in the sexist, politics-averse, American south would find value and safety in being seen as the good girl.
The documentary talks about Swift and her private life, or at least what counts as a private life when you’ve spent more of your life in front of cameras that you have away from them. She discusses her innermost thoughts – about how she felt after winning her second Album of the Year Grammy, her struggle with her public image, and her desire to feel good. Swift explains her initial reluctance to wade into the political fray, citing an upbringing that taught her "A nice girl doesn't force their opinions on people." The cautionary example of the Dixie Chicks -- who paid a price for criticizing President Bush -- is also discussed.
The real joy of the documentary is seeing the artist behind the pop star. Swift’s main selling point as a musician has never been what she can do as a performer – she’s never been much of a singer or dancer – but what she can do as a songwriter. While she’s received a lot of flak over the years for her emo lyrics she rarely gets the praise she deserves for crafting songs that get stuck in your head for years. The most joyous moments of Miss Americana come when Swift is in her element, not performing live or winning awards.
The voice that comes through, loud and clear, is an artist who appears more comfortable with both her private and public-facing sides and who won't be content, as her predecessors said, to shut up and sing.
Rating - 4/5