‘Britney vs. Spears’: A disappointing account of the star’s conservatorship
Maggie Clark | Wednesday, October 6, 2021
Erin Lee Carr’s “Britney vs. Spears” details the story of Britney Spears’ pressures of fame, specifically focusing on how those pressures led to her well-publicized conservatorship (from which her father left last week, just after the documentary’s release on Netflix).
Although this documentary had a lot of potential to address a popular issue of great media interest, it fails to capture the full story of the conservatorship and ultimately disappoints due to its repetitiveness, lack of detail and overbearing focus on scandal at the expense of Britney Spears.
Despite clocking in at just over an hour and a half, “Britney vs. Spears” feels entirely too long. While the focus of the movie is Spears’ conservatorship, far too many details are given. Very early on, it is made clear that the conservatorship is extremely restrictive of Spears’ life and that, even though this restriction exists due to her mental health, she is forced to work and perform for financial benefit. This point is repeatedly expounded on throughout the documentary, to the point where the movie becomes boring.
It takes about half of the film to address the years 2007 and 2008, and it is only in the last 20 minutes that viewers are introduced to the “#FreeBritney” movement and the court hearings involving the conservatorship in 2020 and 2021. These years are just as, if not more, important to understanding Britney Spears’ conservatorship as the years of its beginning, yet barely a fifth of the film is dedicated to them. While viewers get a detailed account of the definition and application of the conservatorship, there is only a brief introduction of the attempt to end it. This section feels extremely rushed, as the important events of 2020 and 2021 are only accounted for by way of text in an epilogue-like fashion at the end of the documentary. To be fair to the filmmakers, the process of making the documentary began over two years ago, so this rushed ending may be due to the fact that so much has happened recently — likely after the intended ending of the filming process.
The documentary is further weakened by its hyper focus on the drama surrounding Britney Spears. Of course, some of this drama is necessary to explain the initial need for the conservatorship, but there is too much focus on it, to the point where it comes across as salacious. For example, the filmmakers’ share documents from an “anonymous source” which detail Spears’ confidential medical information. Again, while an understanding of Spears’ mental health can aid in understanding the conservatorship, it feels unnecessary and invasive to include such private information in a documentary released to the public, especially without the permission of the person who the information is about. The filmmakers go even further in the film when they share text messages between Spears and one of the sources interviewed in the documentary. While the interviewee gave permission to share the texts, it is unlikely that Spears was able to give permission to share these private text messages. Therefore, it is a piece of personal information.
In conclusion, “Britney vs. Spears” is a film that is repetitive, but also vague and disrespectfully drama-filled. It is like a person who talks a lot but actually says very little. Even with all of this, the film does act as a decent introduction to the history of Britney Spears’ conservatorship. If you are a person who knows very little about the topic, “Britney vs. Spears” defines the conservatorship relatively well, but you probably can get away with just watching the first and last 20 minutes.
Title: “Britney vs. Spears”
Starring: Britney Spears, Erin Lee Carr, Jenny Eliscu
Director: Erin Lee Carr
If you liked: “Controlling Britney,” “Gaga: Five Foot Two,” “Miss Americana”
Shamrocks: 2 out of 5