Lady Gaga is sitting outside on a curb, smoking and rambling with friends. The conversation flits back and forth from stupid quips to deep ponderings about life in a way only late-night chats can induce.
"The methodology behind what I've done is that when they wanted me to be sexy or they wanted me to be pop, I always fuckin' put some absurd spin on it that made me feel like I was still in control," she says, near-perfectly encapsulating the thesis of her almost decade-long career.
These are the moments that make Gaga: Five Foot Two, the new Netflix documentary following the singer, very compelling.
The documentary follows Lady Gaga throughout 2016. Viewers accompany her as she produces her album Joanne, deals with chronic fibromyalgia pain, makes music videos, performs at Tony Bennett's birthday party; and, oh yeah, as she gets ready to take the stage at the Super Bowl halftime show.
Though documentaries following celebrities can too often feel forced or slightly fictional, this one doesn't try to glamorize Gaga. In fact, it gives the singer a type of humanity to which she hasn't always been accustomed.
She's no longer hiding behind Kermit jackets, enormous yellow wigs or slabs of red meat. Though she's almost never relatable (very few can say they know what it's like to own magnificent apartments and travel the world with an entire team dedicated to controlling their every move), Gaga: Five Foot Two isn't afraid to show her at her worst, proving the woman behind the scenes is just that — an average woman, with fears and pain and happiness, trying to take control of a truly wild lifestyle.
If Gaga had been unwilling to let cameras into the less appealing aspects of her life (Who can blame her?), the film could easily have fallen into the "Celebrities: They're just like you!" trap. "They eat food! They go to the store! They ride a bus! It's an enormously expensive tour bus, but still, a bus!"
Though Five Foot Two shows Gaga doing all of those things, it also shows her at a doctor's appointment, experiencing the intense pain of fibromyalgia treatment as hands of makeup artists grip her face, trying to make her look presentable for the next public appearance in a densely packed schedule. She has to be worried about her health, and worried about looking presentable, and worried about her intensely personal new album being leaked days before its official release. And of course, all of this is being filmed for a documentary that will be viewed by thousands and thousands of people. But with everything else going on in her life, she barely has time to be worried about that.
Honest looks into the more intimate details of her life are always accompanied by honest quotes from the singer herself. She stresses over the fact that Madonna seems to resent her, but won't tell her to her face ("I just want Madonna to throw me up against the wall and kiss me and tell me I'm a piece of shit"). She reflects on her ability to handle the men — or lack thereof — in her life, ("My threshold for bullshit with men is … I don't have one anymore"), and she gives insight into her own self-worth, and how she gained it ("I never felt pretty enough or smart enough or a good enough musician. That's the good part: I didn't feel good enough, and I do now. Of all the things I deserve, that's where I know I'm worth something.")
Lady Gaga has always seemed larger than life, but the film shows that when it comes down to it, she's only 5-foot-2, and possibly even smaller (according to IMDB, she's only 5-foot-1, but who's counting?)
3 / 4 shells.