This movie is not for the people who already don’t like Beyoncé.
It is not for those of you who are sick of her (2013 is going to be a rough year for you, just FYI). It is not for anyone who thinks she and and her talent are overrated. It is not for anyone who thinks she is more robot than human and enjoys picking her apart. It is not for those who have never purchased any of her albums, solo or otherwise. I could go on and on, but this movie is not for those people.
Life Is But A Dream is the type of film most fans want to see about their favorite celebrity, especially one who has worked so hard to guard her privacy and protect her image as Beyoncé. We see home movie clips from the 80s shot by Beyoncé’s father, Mathew – and no, not the same clips we’ve seen in her concerts and interviews before. We see Beyoncé in the most natural-looking makeup of all time, relaxing barefoot on a couch with her blonde box braids twisted in a high bun atop her head, being faux-interviewed by a young man whose face is never totally shown. And although Beyoncé is answering his questions, she is also the director of the film – which means that even though she appears candid and honest, she is still telling us exactly what she wants us to know.
While the Beyoncé detractors (a word i don’t like to use, but “haters” is so incredibly played) will be turned off by the admittedly narcissistic premise of the documentary, the 90%* of us who can’t get enough of King Bey are only too grateful for these intimate peeks into her life. The opening scene is a modern-day shot of Beyoncé’s childhood home, and throughout the film she takes her fans inside her world in a way we have not seen before. We learn more about her personal and business separation from Mathew, her outright disgust for the ugly rumors that she hired a surrogate to carry daughter Blue Ivy, the pain of losing her first child to miscarriage (including audio of the song she wrote shortly afterwards), and her ocean-deep love for husband Jay-Z. For in all the ways Beyoncé is not like anyone else on the planet, in some ways she is just like every other woman you know – she plays in front of Photo Booth with her sister and best friend; she takes her nephew swimming (albeit in France); she has her mama put her hair in rollers before she gives birth.
For those more interested in the business that is Beyoncé, we are treated to a glimpse of just how much work it takes to keep this empire moving, to keep Beyoncé a step (or two, or twenty) above the rest. She is meticulous and strong, and demands the same from those she employs. Rehearsal scenes are a frantic mess of beautiful girls learning choreography and Frank Gatson yelling at everyone to get their shit together, and Beyoncé reviews stage setup and lighting with a critical, exigent eye. At times she comes across as “mean” or “bitchy” until one remembers that she is solely in control – and if things are not done to her liking, why are they being done at all? She may be a typical perfectionist Virgo, but she is also signing everyone’s paycheck. It is evident from the film that she is still adjusting into the attitude required to be Beyoncé’s manager, still trying to balance her sweet disposition with calculated, no-holds-barred criticism.
So yes, Life Is But A Dream is Beyoncé’s version of Beyoncé’s life, all shot and directed and produced according to Beyoncé, filtered through the Beyoncé lens, packaged and promoted in the Beyoncé way. And for those of us who understand that her personal life is truly none of our business, we are only too grateful that she allows us inside anyway.
(*I totally made up that number. It’s probably closer to 99.99999%.)