Gaga: Five Foot Two only touches the surface on the uncertainty of an explosive identity
In just under two hours, the world is given an insight into the real life of elusive and effervescent star Lady Gaga, in her new Netflix documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two. Arriving just under ten years after ‘Poker Face’, ‘Paparazzi’ and that infamous meat dress, the fly-on-the-wall feature follows Gaga as she prepares for her Super Bowl performance, and throughout the production and release of her latest album, Joanne.
It must be said now that if you haven’t listened to Joanne yet, stop reading this and run, don’t walk, to Spotify right now. It’s a pretty incredible record – for anyone it’s a brave, honest and beautiful album with crystal clear vocals and moving melodies. For Gaga, it’s a departure from her extravagant, honestly WTF personas and costumes, revealing the woman behind the artist at long last.
This is the mantra by which Five Foot Two operates – the documentary follows the artist and listens to the woman quietly. Never over-stylised or heavily narrated, the film gives way to whatever Gaga is, and whatever she’s doing in that moment. It’s clever and in keeping with the promotion for the new record, but in this, it feels more like a promo stunt than an honest outpour.
Perhaps ‘stunt’ is too harsh a word, as the promo does show a real envious recording session with Florence Welch and Mark Ronson, and the documentary’s heart definitely lies in the explanation of the eponymous woman behind ‘Joanne’, with a searing play of the song to those who matter the most. In these moments, the honest music sees its beautiful origins. But mostly, the movie just seems to be repeating the same message time and time again: look how real it all is!
Real it may be, but when flitting from place to place, from emotional break up to intense physical struggle, each moment is rarely given more than five or so minutes, and little explanation as to the implications or details on this new Gaga we see. We’re told about a difficult break up, and we see the tears of intense Fibromyalgia, we touch on the problematic male control within the music industry, and how Gaga fights it – but then we’ve moved onto the next hurdle before you even know it. There is more scope for depth, but the element of control always seems to stop us from going the extra mile, perhaps to stop us being intrusive.
The story of Joanne is so strong as the narrative travels from family anecdote to album recording and release, seeing the impact of family and pain on Gaga and on this new stage in her career and life. It is this strand which is inspiring and eye-opening for viewers: fans of Gaga, creative women and artists who are just a bit unsure right now – the demographic is wide and the impact is intense. It’s just a shame that the rest of the film only touches the surface, on what is undoubtedly a raw, brave new era of a fascinating artist’s identity.
Follow Ella Kemp on Twitter: @Ella_Kemp