Piece of her: Britney Spears fights for freedom in the documentary ‘Britney vs Spears’.
BRITNEY VS SPEARS **1/2 (93 minutes) M
It was absolutely great for all supporters, fans and admirers to hear the news that long-standing pop diva Britney Spears has been able to legally extricate herself from the strictures of the conservatorship that gave her father Jamie a ridiculous degree of control over her life.
Well, great for everybody but for the dedicated makers of the documentary Britney vs Spears, which examines how Britney got into such an unattractive bind, making the strong case that she’s being treated unfairly and ruthlessly exploited.
Now that justice has been served and that Britney is indeed free, events have rendered the film’s strident call for justice to be served somewhat moot. Pity, too, because the film only dropped on Netflix two days before the judgement, cutting short its relevance as a “call to arms” for Brit.
Still, what’s left remains of some interest to fans and the mildly curious as to what a conservatorship is, how it is supposed to operate and how it operated in Britney’s case. It certainly shows how Jamie Spears used the situation for his own ends, making it unlikely that he’ll be receiving any nominations for Father of the Year any time soon.
Directors Erin Lee Carr (a childhood superfan) and reporter Jenny Eliscu (who covered Britney for Rolling Stone) offer a by-the-numbers account of Britney’s troubles leading up to her conservatorship debacle.
There’s plenty of nasty footage showing the paparazzi at work hounding our girl, and a lot of documented detail about the grubby goings-on behind Britney’s back, squeezing her for money, forcing her to tour and so forth. Pretty wretched behaviour from those who were supposed to be looking after her.
To try and give the film a bit of edge, the directors adopt the meta-device of explaining things to each other, as though the camera just happened to be on when they were discussing their latest revelation. It’s not a bad gimmick, and one favoured by some reporters working for our own ABC, though it can be a tad forced as is the case here.
There is coverage, of course, of Britney’s army of flamboyant supporters, who we’ve been seeing plenty of in the blanket news coverage of Britney’s victory.
As it is, the film now serves as a backgrounder to the news event that has overtaken and dated it.
For true lovers of Britney, that’s surely a good thing, that the demands for #freeBritney justice put forth in the film has come to be within two days of the film’s release.
Those who have maintained a mild yet sincere interest in the tumultuous life of Britney since the late 1990s – when she shook pop culture by repackaging teen sexuality as a mass-market force – will also find the film an informative, if pedestrian account of the latest chapter in Britney’s remarkable journey.
And to think she hits 40 on 2 December. What a survivor. Bravo, Britney.