Film Review: Beyonce’s Life Is But A Dream

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“Stop pretending that I have it all together. If I’m scared, be scared. Allow it. Release it. Move on.”–Beyonce 

I love that one review of Beyonce’s HBO documentary, Life Is But A Dream, which calls it simultaneously “calculated and confessional.”

The thing is if a celebrity like Rihanna who’s fond of over sharing made a documentary it’ll just be a fun look at what we’ve already seen splashed on her social media channels. But for Beyonce, as someone who’s been so guarded about her private life, the doc can potentially come off more like an expose of this mysterious living legend. Is that why we’re all so obsessed?

I mean, what do we really know about Beyonce besides the fact that she sings, dances, and is very, very good at her job? She has perfected the art of being an all-star performer without compromising her privacy so what is she actually like on a day-to-day basis? Like everyone else I thought this documentary would finally explain everything we wanted to know about her, but here’s the thing: Beyonce doesn’t really want us to know her. She values her privacy. So even though she does share some milestones in her life, it’s done so in a puzzling way, which is why we’re all analyzing the crap out of it. I’m a huge fan but I found some parts of this HBO film to be too cryptic and ultimately confusing, and contradictory.

If you watched the Oprah interview that aired before the movie, you might have heard Beyonce mention how this footage of her over the past three or four years that includes concert clips, vacation footage, and her video diary (Um, you guys, Beyonce vlogs!) was used for the film, but she didn’t want to release it because the movie didn’t feel complete. That all changed when she found out she was pregnant and figured out who she was and wanted to be. In this new stage of her life, she wanted to be more open.

Yet for someone who wants to be more open she’s been criticized for releasing a vanity project. She has directing, producing and acting credits (so Lena Dunham).  She’s in full control of what goes into the final product and what remains on the cutting room floor.

The great part about this doc is we get to see her in a more emotional light.  She gets scared. She has a miscarriage. She feels overwhelmed at times. She’s prickly when the stage isn’t all white. She loves her daughter and her husband and God.

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And yet what she does share is quickly mentioned and glossed over, making some events in her life (the strained relationship with her dad) even more confusing. And another interesting thing is that throughout the movie, every song in her concert clip interludes compliments what Beyonce is going through at the moment (Run The World when she is in full work mode, Love on Top when she’s pregnant, etc.) So why is a loving toast to Jay Z on his 2006 birthday juxtaposed with the song Resentment? Am I reading too much into this?

One of my favourite parts about the film is not when it’s being used as a way to correct outlandish tabloid stories (to say she had a surrogate when she was actually pregnant is ridiculous), or those intimate moments with her best friend (who else loved the Coldplay duet?) but when she provides some cutting social commentary.

Women don’t have it easy when men run the industry. They define what’s sexy, what’s feminine. We need to open our minds. I love the last comment, because it is really about how we perceive the world that dictates our attitudes and the way we conduct ourselves, but if B was really getting all Gender Studies on us and hated how men run the show and infecting us with their male fantasies then why is she the one dressed in barely there outfits? What’s empowering about that? Or is it just about doing things on our own terms and not caring too much about what people read into it?

Life is but a dream.  It’s a title worth analyzing and can be read in two totally different ways. Either life is just fictive, composed of ephemeral images which may or may not bear any meaning (like a well thought out HBO film which seeks to make us feel something, to persuade us, to inspire), or life is simply paradise. That’s all. So let us enjoy it while we’re here.

What is she trying to tell us?

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5 thoughts on “Film Review: Beyonce’s Life Is But A Dream

  1. I didn’t see the documentary, but I like that what she is saying isn’t all the way through – revealed. When it comes to our personal lives as artists, I don’t think all needs to be revealed. Then it becomes about the artist and not the art where audience can inject themselves and have a full experience. It’s not just about us, course the Rihannas and the Gagas of the world are in a love affair with themselves and want to explore how they didn’t like the exact shade of their brown toast in the morning and the history of not liking brown toast, but when people obscure somethings, it makes room for you to join them in thought. They don’t take up all the space in the room, plus they can reveal some deeper things and tougher things to digest that can only be dealt with effectively over time (if it includes masses who might be so wildly diverse). :))) Now I want to see the doc. At first I rolled my eyes at the idea of it. Like….ugh…more overexposure from a star aka shining bright and already exposed to us at every juncture.

    1. I completely agree with you. Some celebrities are just overexposed and keeping up with their antics is exhausting. I feel the same way about actors. If I know too much about their private life I don’t see the character they’re playing on screen, just a version of themselves.
      Personally I just found it a bit strange that she hired someone to mock interview her in a movie that she’s directing/producing/editing. Quite a contradictory move when you factor in the fact that she wants to be more open yet still be in complete control of her brand.
      But I still highly recommend you see the film! Despite my criticisms, she’s still one of my favourite artists and the doc definitely tugged on my heartstrings. 🙂

      P.S. Your brown toast comment is hilarious!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts

  2. “Some celebrities are just overexposed and keeping up with their antics is exhausting.” YEP.

    Yes….some actors too. But the really good ones know this, why they guard their private lives as much as possible. Problem is… with certain actors it’s become a circus cuz people like them so much lolol. Then tabloids want to sell material, so it’s a recipe for disaster. 😦 There are some actors who at some point, lost control of the wheel, so they gave up on privacy (Angelina/Pitt).

    But, depending on how serious they are about their craft – they can’t give up. All they need do is wait til their star dies down a little. Still you’re right, knowing where they ate at yesterday, that they go to the gym as opposed to take martial arts, that they went on 2 dates in 3 nights, kills the audience’s ability to believe what they serve up next on screen.

    Bad, bad, bad, for a really serious actor.

    Which is why I’m glad Johnny Depp’s star cooled after a while and Joseph Gordon- Levitt’s is having a difficult rise!!!! Celebrity is one thing, but I still like believability is a movie. Where is Beyonce’s doc? Just HBO?

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