Sundance 2020: Miss Americana

A still from Miss Americana by Lana Wilson, an official selection of the Documentary Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
A still from Miss Americana by Lana Wilson, an official selection of the Documentary Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Miss Americana is now playing on Netflix.

Through the eyes of a superstar, fame looks a little different than what we might imagine. This is especially true for Taylor Swift, who came into her stardom during some of her most formative teen years and became a young adult in the public’s view. Miss Americana pulls back the curtain and offers a candid look into the private thoughts, emotions, and experiences of Swift as a documentary team follows her around during the production of her seventh album, Lover.

In this film, Taylor Swift gets honest with us about her insecurities, especially the perception she has about her weight and the times she has stopped eating so she could lose a few pounds. These thoughts, Swift says, have been brought about by paparazzi images and critical comments about the way she looks in particular photos or wearing certain clothes. Also concerning her image, Swift recounted the time Kanye West interrupted her on stage in 2009 during the VMAs. Initially, she thought the crowd was booing her as a result of West’s comments, and, since then, she has worked hard to be seen as good and to put her best foot forward over the decade that would follow.

Other topics discussed by Taylor throughout the film include politics and her decision to become vocal during the 2018 midterm elections, her mom’s fight with cancer, the relationships she’s had over the years, including her current one with actor Joe Alwyn. Swift also reveals her thoughts on the “Taylor Swift Is Over Party” and why she dropped out of the public eye for a year.

Miss Americana provides a fascinating look at the singer’s life, and it puts her in a new light that is more personal and relatable. The incredible work ethic that Swift demonstrates is admirable as we get a glimpse into her process of writing songs and recording them in the studio.

Taylor Swift admits that her public persona has been manufactured. And, to a degree, there may be some manufacturing with this film as Swift finds new ways to present herself to the public. However, at Sundance Q&As and interviews, director Lana Wilson explained the process of building trust with the singer as she and her team started to follow her around and capture some intimate moments. Along with interviews, Wilson used home video and public media to pull together the film. In some moments, when the film crew wasn’t present, Swift recorded herself to send to Wilson for use. Throughout making the documentary, they formed a trust and relationship.

Miss Americana is earnest in its presentation, and we see a side of Taylor Swift that hasn’t been seen before. If you’re a fan of Swift already, you’ll love her more after watching it. If you aren’t, you might become one.

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