Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Review: 'I Am Britney Jean'

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Talk about beating a dead horse... Britney Spears is still trying to milk out the "personal" Britney Jean theme, even though the album was dead before it was even released. And just like the album that shares it's name, I Am Britney Jean flopped miserably both in terms of viewership and content.

I Am Britney Jean was meant to focus on the personal aspects of Britney Spears' personal life and coincide with both Britney Jean and her two-year Planet Hollywood residency in Las Vegas with a show titled Britney: Piece of Me. However, the former was almost completely abandoned to focus completely on the Vegas show. Essentially, it was a two-hour infomercial that broke down into:

  • 20% Britney Spears
  • 40% Spears' management team
  • 40% Propaganda for Spears' Las Vegas residency

It also may have accidentally spread some light on how absent-minded Spears is with her career. Most of the scenes including Spears also include none other than her father, who still, five years after Spears' widespread breakdown, is the sole conservator over his daughter. It is evident that he still has quite the iron grip on his daughter's career choices and daily life, and I can't help but feel that she's become his little puppet. Her manager and her father were like a dual effort on pushing Britney here and there while she just stared at the sky and wondered where she was even at.

The majority of the time, Spears is absent from management meetings and costume fittings, leaving everyone to make plans to fit her schedule. She would eventually mosey in, approve an outfit by calling it "really cool" or "awesome," and then leave. And let's not forget the Britney Jean album release listening party, where she let will.i.am answer all of the questions for her and chose to awkwardly stare at her lap or off in space. (Which she did acknowledge in an interview during the documentary, but it was awkward nonetheless.)

I will give Spears credit though; she did buckle down and learned as much of that choreography as possible. She seemed dedicated when she was there, but I think her back-up dancers took the spotlight from her, having about double the camera time practicing their dance. Dancers were breaking limbs, passing out, puking across the stage, and practicing for twelve hours a day, while Britney got to freely come and go as she wanted. 

One thing that was completely void from the rehearsals for Britney: Piece of Me? Singing! Of course, the one thing that actually made Britney famous to begin with was completely ignored. Surprising? Not really, considering Spears hasn't sang live for years now, but her management did tell press sources before that Spears was taking singing lessons and that she planned on singing live during the entire show. Obviously that was never the case, as she made no attempt to even whisper her own hits while in rehearsals... In fact, even the prissy, whiny-sounding dance coaches watching the rehearsals did more singing than Britney throughout the entire documentary.

We did see a very small sliver of Spears' personal side as she attended her family's Thanksgiving dinner, received a call from Jamie Lynn sending love to "y'all" in Louisiana, and visited terminally-ill children in a metropolitan hospital. Coinciding with the hospital visit was a small monologue from Britney on why she wanted to visit the sick children, and just when I thought I was finally going to get a worthwhile quote from Britney Spears, she cut it short and simple to say that she had a family member with cancer... and that was about it. I thought she'd have a bigger monologue on the subject, but I guess that's asking a little bit too much out of her...

Really, the only things I've learned from the documentary are that Britney likes watermelon bubblegum and the word "cool," she's much more manufactured than I could ever imagine, and her dancers did a hell of a lot of work to actually look good on stage. In fact, if they keep dancing like they were in the documentary, they could easily upstage Britney herself. Meanwhile, Britney is doing significantly better with that whole dancing thing than she has been the past couple of years, but the lip-syncing isn't going anywhere... even on songs that include in-track auto tune.

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