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‘Miss Americana’ scratches the surface of Taylor Swift’s life and legacy

| Monday, February 10, 2020

Lina Domenella | The Observer

With a simple opening of Swift playing her piano, her newest addition to the family — Benjamin Button — confidently crawling along the keys and even the strings, viewers are immediately taken into Miss Americana’s home for a vulnerable opening to her documentary.

In between reading passages from her collection of diaries, Swift tells her audience that she has always centered her life around “a moral code” that involved “the need to be thought of as good.” After further musing about where she sourced her validation in the past, solely from other people like her fans, she concludes, “I became the person everyone wanted me to be.” Cue the black screen with the title of the documentary and the anticipation that is spiked, knowing that the rest of the story is about to unfold.

A transition between Taylor’s insecurity and her growing confidence can be seen in the shot of her receiving the news that “reputation” wasn’t nominated for any of the Big Four Grammy categories. Though this may have come as devastating news to her a couple years earlier, Swift immediately sets a goal of writing a better record.

Swift also points out the desire for female artists to constantly evolve, which she has experienced in her own process of crafting a variety of albums and transitioning from country to pop. Her talent for storytelling has remained at the core of her success and identity as an artist, while she realized she needed to shed the layers of her identity that she based off of other people’s opinions.

Swift acknowledges that she basically grew up in front of the world, many of her best and worst moments publicized for everyone to see. In this documentary, she seems to have learned that romance is best kept under wraps for her, and it seems to be working with latest lover Joe Alwyn. Viewers get the smallest sense of his involvement in Swift’s life with the brief post-show embrace and his home videos of Swift. The montage of these phone videos set to Swift’s acoustic demo of “Call It What You Want,” assumed that she is playing the song to Joe, gave an inkling of their relationship, and the song itself tells a lot about how they got together.

Swift’s quirks still shine through the more serious tone of a documentary film. Her iced wine, cat backpack and other fun facts reveal themselves in her conversations and interactions with others. Such details reflect her powerful capability to capture the five senses in her songwriting, the process of which — while different every time — reinforces the work that she puts into her product.

It was certainly fun to see songs like “Getaway Car,” “The Man” and “Me” come together in the recording studio. Such transparency and honesty was hinted at from the beginning of the film.

Though “Miss Americana” covered so many pieces of Swift’s public and private lives — her struggles with eating and body image, the encounters with Kanye West, her mom’s cancer and her political influence— I was left with several questions: What about her feuds with female stars? Is she still good friends with Ed Sheeran? Will she and Joe Alwyn get married? Was “Lover” one of her last big projects?

I am looking forward to see where Swift turns next, especially after the release of a new single, “Only the Young” with “Miss Americana.”

Film: “Miss Americana”

Directed by: Lana Wilson

Where to Watch: Netflix

If you Like: “Gaga: Five Foot Two,” “Katy Perry: Part of Me”

Shamrocks: 3.5 out of 5

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