Overview: It seems that quite a bit went into the creation of this precedential documentary. First, it was created, produced and co-directed by Beyonce Knowles herself. It is comprised of home movies, concert footage and raw footage from her laptop. It also contains thousands of hours of private footage, compiled by a “visual director” Beyoncé employs who has shot practically her every waking moment, up to sixteen hours a day, since 2005. It is edited together into a 90-minute film which was pitched as “intimate,” and “revealing,” with “unprecedented access.” It proves to be an extraordinary film in that respect. Then it was shopped around.
Reports say that the star’s management wooed HBO corporate for six weeks before they bought the rights. HBO’s president of programming Michael Lombardo explained the network’s apprehension to GQ. It seems they weren’t crazy about Beyonce’s agents pitching the singer as co-director. He said –
[box]”My first response to myself was, ‘Okay, that doesn’t sound like something we normally would do. It sounds a little bit like it’s probably going to be a fluff piece. We have a long history at HBO in the documentary world and in the music world, and, the notion of any person of note being responsible for the editorial choices in a story about themselves is something I approach with some degree of cynicism.”[/box]
Evidently he changed his mind and HBO had a unique film on their hands and from a superstar to boot. By its own admission though, the film was hard to categorize and it was a risk. Plus, there was the notion that HBO was dealing with a powerful force that set the terms from day one; that force was Beyonce. Would anyone else ever get to walk into HBO with the carte blanche she did?
Expectations: I ignored the trailer when it first came out because I didn’t want any more preconceived notions of what this documentary special was going to offer. I’m glad I held off because upon watching it I felt irritated.
Review: I will confess that I may not be the best writer to post about this documentary. I would welcome an opposing view either in the Comments below or in a separate post. But, why am I not the best choice? It is because I am not a big fan of “celebrity.” Of course, BEYONCE: LIFE IS BUT A DREAM is all about celebrity and specifically, how the subject of this film keeps that in balance with a personal life. At least that is what I think the last 90 minutes have been about. I am still not sure and I’m still not sure I care. I may be in the minority here but, I have a hard time relating to someone that makes more in an hour than I make in a year. I have a hard time relating to a person who hires someone to film her 24/7. I have a hard time relating to someone who struggles to show pride in her pregnancy. What was she afraid of exactly? It is not like she needed to welcome the world to her bedroom, or to the birth or any such thing. I didn’t get it. She could have just made her public appearances and never explained the “baby bump” if she was that stressed on privacy. Yeah, “row, row, row, your boat life is but a dream” if you got everything you want at your fingertips, For most it is a whole lot of rowing without getting anywhere and for others life is a nightmare.
Now before you launch into hate mail towards me, let me state that I do understand the stresses involved with being a celebrity. There are paparazzi and scrutiny etc. and, God forbid, if one is packing any cellulite – which it looks like Beyonce isn’t. I get that. But, it comes with the job.
Unfortunately, that persistent tone was locked in my mind throughout the special and started, as I mentioned earlier, while viewing the trailer. I much rather had preferred an HBO Concert than this. HBO used to have concerts all the time back in the day. Besides the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gigs and Lady Gaga we haven’t had a good concert air. Instead we got a film that the filmmaker felt was sincere and meaningful and a weeping Oprah Winfrey called empowering. Even if Beyonce’s heart and soul were in the right place it still came across to me as vain and egotistical in a soft way. I know she is as human as the rest of us; it doesn’t take a micromanaged film to tell me that.
In Conclusion: I always like to watch things that stir my emotions regardless of whether it is in a positive or negative manner. So I appreciate having seen this film. Many outlets enjoyed it as well and for different reasons. Some stated it was “just for the fans not a casual watcher,” it was called a “game changer in the field of documentaries,” and “surprising and cool.” I’m sure it will get more buzz as it continues to air on HBO. But I wish I could still figure out what she was babbling about.
Additional airings of BEYONCE: LIFE IS BUT A DREAM appear across all of HBO’s platforms over the next two weeks and can be seen on HBOGo.
Again, feel free to disagree with my ‘gut reaction’ in the comments below.
About The Author
Editor at Large of HBOWatch.com and the internet's foremost HBO expert.