A lively and revealing inside-the-bubble-of-fame documentary about Girl Gaga has some real truth and dare, if insufficient music.
On the Toronto Film Event, before the premiere of “Gaga: Five Foot Two,” a brisk and infectious verit? family portrait of the singer onstage and (usually) off, Gaga sat down at the piano to execute a slowed-down, unplugged single rendition of “Bad Love,” and it was stunning. Her tone of voice had a ability that didn’t just offer you chills, it healed you. Gaga sings that same single amount in the film, throughout a cabaret performance at the Rainbow Room in New York City, and you may see the majesty from it sweep through the nightclub audience. The first shot in “Five Foot Two” is of underneath of Gaga’s high-heeled shoe, as she’s hoisted through to a pulley during a rehearsal for the 2017 Super Bowl halftime show, which feels right. After 10 years, she’s still the high-wire queen of pop.
“Gaga: Five Foot Two,” a Netflix documentary that’ll be available globally on Sept. 22, does not have a whole lot of musical statistics, and personally I wish it got more. If anyone is ripe to produce a backstage concert film that conjures the blend of pleasure and intimacy that we remember, 25 years ago, from “Truth or Dare,” it’s Female Gaga. But “Five Ft . Two” is focused on Gaga growing up, going for a decisive turn — almost an off-ramp — in her pop journey, exploring a new direction as she tries, at age 30, to calm herself in the thrashing waters of fame.
In each circumstance, I presumed her, yet when you’re this rich and famous and talented and blessed and adored, any complaining — and Gaga is not timid as it pertains to discussing the items she isn’t happy about — can, if looked at from a certain position, come off as a glorified case of white people problems. When Gaga, in the film, discussions about how lonely she feels, and about how each new passionate partnership appears to dissolve equally as she’s taking on a new project, I thought: Well, yes, love is painful, and life can be unhappy — but set alongside the rest of us, there are probably one or two people out there who would still prefer to date you.
Yet the confessional griping never comes off as sour grapes. In “Five Foot Two,” Gaga radiates a potent energy — she’s intensely funny and aware, therefore unabashedly focused on herself that, like Madonna back your day, that’s simply who she is and who we wish her to be. (Sorry, but you don’t get to be the queen of pop by centering too much on others.) Talking about Madonna, Gaga disses her in the movie in a not-quite-scandalous way, though it’s really payback for negative reviews Madonna made about her — and in this case, I side with Gaga. Madonna emerged off as jealous, when she should have celebrated the actual fact that Sweetheart Gaga, in the world-shaking audacity of her first explosion, was Madonna’s musical and spiritual heir, not forgetting her 21st-century prot?g? in Warholian image manipulation.
However in “Five Foot Two,” Gaga is fully and casually exposed, and what we see is a playful but vibrantly extreme woman in big glasses and tied-back platinum-blonde hair who’s exceedingly more comfortable with her family (her dad isn’t some distant looming figure — he’s just dad, hanging out and supportive), who reveres the creative process and knows how to take care of herself. She’s acquired several nice big pet dogs, and her Malibu mansion is so tasteful and appealing it looks like the home Jennifer Lawrence is renovating in “mother!” if she’d ever been able to complete it.
Inside a Hollywood studio room, where Gaga files the soulful, stripped-down ballad “Million Reasons,” she has a taunting camaraderie with Make Ronson, the British isles DJ and producer we see collaborating with her on the taking of “Joanne,” her first break-with-dance-pop recording. (Tellingly, the main one big dance keep track of onto it, “Perfect Illusion,” was her first blah solo, with a grating hook that lodges itself in your mind until you realize that — yes — the hook comes right out of “Papa Don’t Preach.”)
When “Truth or Dare” came out, it was before the age of reality TV, and everyone in the multimedia does metaphysical backflips looking to pin down what it designed when Madonna provided us a “spontaneous,” “unguarded,” “raw and uncut,” “backstage” view of herself that was actually guided by the legend — and even if it wasn’t, the true calculation was that Madonna, in the DNA of her personality, was always “performing” in any case. That was how she was wired. (Warren Beatty in the movie: “She doesn’t want to live on off camera.”) In hindsight, all that strikes me as you part true, two parts convoluted sexism. As though Bob Dylan, the inventor of too cool for college, didn’t orchestrate his image every bit as much in “Don’t Look Back.”
At one point she says that she welcomes the duration of time, that she’s only too happy to think of herself turning out to be “this old rock-star girl.” A comment like that is the sound of sanity. However now that she has made a movie that exposes herself, she should certainly do a concert film, a meticulously orchestrated one which, like “Stop Making Sense,” could bring the proper execution to a fresh pitch of creative exhilaration. “Five Foot Two” teaches you Girl Gaga evolving — but more than that it shows you that she’s only just starting out. That’s what can occur when you’re delivered this way.