Cast: Taylor Swift, Andrea Swift, Scott Swift, Abigail Anderson Lucier
Director: Lana Wilson
I’ve reviewed a few musician documentaries in the past, and even if you don’t listen to the artist featured in the film, as long as you end up learning something of value about their life and their experiences it was worth your time. While I’m not exactly an avid listener of Taylor Swift, Miss Americana takes what appears to be a traditional modern pop star and showcases her in a multi-dimensional and interesting format. Through it’s clear direction and strong illustration of a young woman’s metamorphosis through life, Miss Americana is an honest portrayal of a life that we may only read about online but that truly matters when looking back at her life as a whole.
The film follows the life and career of Taylor Swift. From a small-time writer and performer in Nashville, eventually breaking out as a mainstream pop star as a teenager, and then finally establishing herself in her career and using her platform to speak out on the issues that matter to her. While some of these issues may potentially damage her career, it shows us what she’s willing to give up in order for her to do what she thinks is right. One of the main things that truly stands out is the natural maturity that comes with Taylor’s experience in the music industry. In the early years, her dreams and desires come off slightly childish and narcissistic, like she wants to be in this industry so everyone will like her and watch her perform. At the same time, think about what your goals and dreams looked like when you were a teenager. They’re probably far less mature than the expectations you’ve set for yourself today. Seeing Taylor develop from someone just trying to cling to relevancy to someone who truly understands the struggles that both celebrities and common people face throughout their life. Kudos to Wilson for organizing this movie in a way where all of these points line up in a way that makes sense for everyone. She had years of material to sift through and managed to pick out the moments with the most impact to create a world where we truly identify with and understand Taylor’s life. Seeing Taylor tackle tough issues like her sexual assault trial and her support of gay rights displays a level of growth and humanity that is tough to see from the news snippets and YouTube clips you find about her, so I appreciate the movie bringing those issues to the forefront of her life. You don’t have to like Taylor’s music, but you have to respect her for putting everything on the line for the sake of justice and being on the right side of history. When you get down to the real reasons why she’s so passionate about these issues, you can truly tell that Taylor’s a good person who only wants the best for everyone in this world. I don’t think I’ll be playing, “Shake it Off,” anytime soon, but after watching Miss Americana, I won’t exactly judge anyone who does.
Overall, Miss Americana is proof that direction is the most important factor in a documentary and when you have a laser-focused director like Wilson, you can get past your opinion of Taylor’s music and focus on the message. Towards the end of the movie, we see Taylor at kind of a crossroads of her life as she attempts to figure out to move forward with her career and external challenges in her personal life. After watching Miss Americana, I have confidence in Taylor’s conscience and am sure that she’ll make the right decision.
Overall Score: 8/10