Miss Americana First Reviews: "Captivating" Taylor Swift Documentary Is Tailor-Made For Fans, But Leaves A Few Blank Spaces

Haters gonna hate, and they won't stop after seeing this, but first word out of Sundance says Netflix's Tay-Tay doc is an insightful if calculated look at the pop star's political awakening.

by | January 24, 2020 | Comments

Sundance kicked things off Thursday night with one of the biggest stars on the planet, as Taylor Swift and filmmaker Lana Wilson brought their documentary Miss Americana to Park City to the delight of fans and also critics – mostly. Reports of cheers, tears, and giggles from the crowd at the Eccles Theater were followed by some largely positive reviews for the feature, which arrives on Netflix in just a week. Although understood to be carefully constructed for the subject’s approval – this is Tay Tay after all – the film is also commended for showing a more candid Swift than we’re used to, though that may not be saying much.

Here’s what critics are saying about Miss Americana:

Firstly, is it a good movie?

“Like the 2017 Netflix documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two, it’s a lively and revealing once-over-lightly portrait.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“A captivating watch…refreshing.” Matt Goldberg, Collider

“An intimate and eye-opening documentary.” – Sean P. Means, Salt Lake Tribune

“More compelling than its straightforward structure would suggest.” – Dan Mecca, The Film Stage

Miss Americana is undoubtedly a pro-Tay narrative, but it’s a good one.” – Anna Menta, Decider

“Not a game-changer when it comes to documentary filmmaking, but it is emotionally effective, surprisingly entertaining, and incredibly inspiring.” – Scott Menzel, We Live Entertainment

So it’s not just for the fans?

“The perfect balance…for the fans, as well as for someone who doesn’t really know much about Swift as a person and will possibly walk away with a new level of respect and appreciation for her.” – Scott Menzel, We Live Entertainment

“Whether haters will be willing to hear the new Taylor out remains to be seen, but if they do, they would certainly find someone worth listening to.” – Anna Menta, Decider

“There’s nothing here to make new Swift fans or change the opinions of her haters, but that’s kind of the point of the documentary: to disregard the audience in favor of examining the relationship between a female celebrity and her followers.” – Matt Goldberg, Collider

“Those indifferent or opposed to Swift likely won’t find much in Miss Americana to change their minds.” – Angie Han, Mashable

“It’s unlikely that Miss Americana will convince naysayers of Swift’s artistry — as with most music documentaries, the film preaches to the converted.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

Miss Americana is far too coy a documentary to fully satisfy anybody.” – Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

Miss Americana

(Photo by Courtesy of Sundance Institute.)

Does it reveal anything new about Swift?

“You won’t learn about her deepest secrets…but it does have an intimacy that is rare for Swift.”  – Steve Pond, The Wrap

“Bravest of all…she discusses her past struggle with an eating disorder, a condition triggered by the constant scrutiny of her own image.” – Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter

“I was genuinely shocked by how much information was revealed, given the 85-minute runtime.” – Scott Menzel, We Live Entertainment

“Those hoping for juicy gossip will also be disappointed.” – Angie Han, Mashable

“Lana Wilson’s portrait feels more like the singer’s attempt at brand repositioning than a heartfelt, revealing chronicle.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

“Truth be told, her song ‘Fifteen’ is far more revealing than anything in this purported behind-the-scenes glimpse.” – Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

What’s the one thing everyone will be talking about? 

“The biggest part about watching Miss Americana is seeing Swift opening up about breaking her political silence.” – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

“[The] more interesting half of the film is dedicated to Swift’s political awakening as an increasingly liberal activist.” – Anna Menta, Decider

Miss Americana becomes electric in its final act as Swift finally reaches a political awakening.” – Matt Goldberg, Collider

“The heart of Miss Americana is Taylor Swift telling us what she stands for on gay rights and women’s rights, and what she’s learned about the fate of being a woman in the public eye.” – Steve Pond, The Wrap

“Just a teensy weensy bit irritatingly self-congratulatory…you can’t help sensing that this new, socially conscious, politically savvy Taylor is also a construct, albeit one that is entirely sincere.” – Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter

Taylor Swift: Miss Americana

(Photo by © Netflix)

Does the film feel authentic?

“While most of this authenticity reads as manufactured and a bit focus-grouped, it’s hard not to like this pop star.” – Dan Mecca, The Film Stage

“What matters is that the things we do see ring true. In Miss Americana, the vision Taylor Swift presents of herself is just chancy and sincere enough to draw us in.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“Watching her defy her father and her closest advisors through tears, it’s hard to feel that Swift did so for any reason other than believing it was the right thing to do. Here is the proof that so many have been asking for that her feminism is genuine.” – Anna Menta, Decider

“Wilson is there to capture the scene when Swift tells her family and team…it’s this rawness and vulnerability that makes you feel for Swift.” – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

“There were several moments in the film where I found myself becoming oddly emotional, almost to the point of tears.” – Scott Menzel, We Live Entertainment

Miss Americana is Swift’s way of having her cake and eating it too. She gets to control her narrative in a favorable documentary that upholds her persona as an introspective artist but swats down anyone who interrogates that persona.” – Matt Goldberg, Collider

“If you think the moon landing was staged, just wait till you see Miss Americana, the new documentary about pop star Taylor Swift.” – Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

Miss Americana is a little too timid and constructed — it rarely gives viewers the impression that we’re seeing the ‘real’ Taylor Swift…there isn’t much spontaneity or surprise.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

OK, but it has the fun candid moments we’re hoping for, right?

“Her difficult public life is intercut with joyous scenes like that of her fruitful creative life.” – Mary Sollosi, Entertainment Weekly

“Wilson leaves room for some quirky bits, like Swift doting on her three cats…but even then there’s a message: ‘I want to wear pink and let you know I know about politics.’” – Sean P. Means, Salt Lake Tribune

“Sorry, but staring at a person as they tweet isn’t exciting, even when that person is Taylor Swift.” – Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

Is it still a music doc?

“Music buffs will be especially drawn to the attention paid here to Swift’s working practice…the collaborative process by which she writes songs.” – Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter

“Wilson also spends extensive time with Swift in the studio, giving fans an intimate look at her songwriting process as they’ve never seen before.” – Anna Menta, Decider

“Watching Swift and her producers take scribble off her cell phone and turn it into hit music is impressive…the excitement on screen when they crack a lyric feels timeless.” – Dan Mecca, The Film Stage

“What’s surprising about Miss Americana is how little of the documentary is about her music…which is fine” – Matt Goldberg, Collider

Final thoughts?

“For a pop star whose reputation has been up and down and down some more, it seems Miss Americana has her poised for an upswing.” – Anna Menta, Decider

“If it engages a few more young people to become politically active, then we can consider it a success.” – Dan Mecca, The Film Stage

Miss Americana carries too much of a self-congratulatory tone to give Swift’s evolution the resonance it deserves.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

Miss Americana opens everywhere on January 31, 2020. 

Adjusted Score: 97128%
Critics Consensus: Miss Americana provides an engaging if somewhat deliberately opaque backstage look at a pop star turned cultural phenomenon.
Synopsis: Pop singer Taylor Swift reveals intimate details of her life while showcasing backstage and onstage concert footage.... [More]
Starring: Taylor Swift
Directed By: Lana Wilson

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