The highly anticipated Britney Spears documentary, Framing Britney Spears, had all the makings necessary for a great docu mentary. A beloved pop star in need, a legal battle against her corrupt father, a diverse cast of moderately reputable sources, and a fan-fuelled social media movement (#FreeB ritney). But, in the end, it fell flat.
The documentary, available in Canada through Crave, recaps the “Oops! …I Did It Again” singer’s career. It introduces or reminds viewers of her early aged rise to fame, her paparazzi-induced mental break and the motivation behind the #FreeBritney movement Spears’ conservatorship.
Off the top, Spears was depicted as a young, talented individual with endless drive and agency. Her rapid success, then, was unsurprising to viewers. Her undeniable charm and kind spirit were evident and confirmed in interviews with her personal acquaintances. By this point in the film, if you weren’t a fan of Spears already, you were now.
Up next, the film documented her public unravelling. Spears’ hyper-sexual yet schoolgirl innocent persona both charmed and confused the public, kickstarting the criticism Spears endured throughout her entire career, even today.
The documentary replayed many of Spears’ low moments, including familiar images of Spears with a shaved head and headlines deeming Spears unfit to be a mother. It also included clips of an interview between Spears and television broad caster Diane Sawyer. In the interview, Sawyer informed Spears, only 21 at the time, that then-first lady of Maryland, Kendel Ehrlich, had declared she would probably shoot Spears if given a chance, leaving Spears in tears for obvious reasons.
Not only did the media attack Spears on-air, but they also attacked her everywhere she went. According to a paparazzo interviewed throughout the film, images of Spears sold for exorbitant amounts of money. As a result, the paparazzi had pursued Spears with unrequited fervour. Spears had pleaded with them in hopes of being left alone. When they refused to oblige, Spears lashed out.
All of these events had made headlines when they first took place, but Framing Britney Spears has brought them back to light at a time when conversations surrounding mental health are more commonly accepted.
Up to this point, the film had positioned itself well to discuss Spears’ conservatorship.
It had clearly illustrated the deterioration of Spears’ mental health and the dwindling of her agency. It had also made a point to highlight Spears’ father’s absence in her life, his alco holic tendencies and his inability to handle personal finances successfully (he and his wife, Spears’ mother, had filed for bankruptcy in 1998).
The conservatorship was discussed, as expected, but the docu mentary did not reveal anything that couldn’t already be found through a quick Google search. The coverage was relatively light, with mediocre sources sharing opinions but not actually providing anything factual.
The lack of depth surrounding the conservatorship accentuated the absence of the singer’s voice throughout the film, which could have been leveraged to emphasize Spears’ eradicated agency. Instead, it came across as a pitfall.
Framing Britney Spears retold Spears’ story to date through a more compassionate lens and brought awareness to the controversial conservatorship, which in and of itself is positive. Still, if you’re looking for a revealing depiction of the ins and outs of the situation, this film isn’t where you’ll find it.