Movie Review: Taylor Swift Excels In Netflix's 'Miss Americana'

Miss Americana Taylor Swift Netflix
For those unaware, the Netflix documentary’s title is an abbreviated take on the seventh-listed song on Taylor Swift’s latest album, ‘Lover,’ entitled “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince.” Stepping into the doc, Swift fittingly dishes heartbreak and much more. Directed by Lana Wilson, “Miss Americana” provides an in-depth look into Swift’s life and career as she reflects on and shapes her legacy.

Hence, there is no doubt about it. If you are a Taylor Swift fan, Netflix’s “Miss Americana” is a must-see. The pop-culture megastar takes fans and critics alike behind-the-scenes of her personally crafted empire. Musically, it is one built on confessional ballads, love songs, breakup laments, and self-empowerment anthems. There is nothing Swift has not sung about in the past 14 years.

Back to the Beginning

As “Miss Americana” explores, Taylor Swift’s ascent into the spotlight began with her hit song, “Tim McGraw.” It was released in June 2006, and it has been a perilous ride to get to and remain on top ever since. I have been following Swift’s career since the release of that first single, and it is still crazy to remember her Wikipedia when it only had a couple of paragraphs. I should have taken a screenshot of it back then!

As you probably well-know, Taylor Swift’s Wiki has expanded by more than a few paragraphs nearly a decade-and-a-half later. Of course, the growth of Swift’s Wiki and her empire has not been without its share of pain. “Miss Americana” sheds light on many of her battles, fought both in and out of the spotlight.

The Artist

Taylor Swift opens up about her life's various chapters, including her creative process making ‘Lover.’ While fans have gotten a peek into it through the years (thanks to bonus tracks), she opens her largest window yet in “Miss Americana.” One of the many things that stood out watching is how every one of her songs, even in their barest form, is sensational. Perhaps, even more so.

During the Netflix doc, Fun’s Jack Antonoff talks about how hard Taylor Swift works, and “Miss Americana” drives that point home. He also lavishes praise on her talent, which is telling. Antonoff is an incredibly skilled artist in his own right who has collaborated with Swift first-hand, so he would know. Backing up his sentiment is Swift’s stratospheric career.

Behind the Scenes

It is not all about the music, though. Albeit, “Miss Americana” gives viewers a strong sense of the effort that goes into creating her mind-blowing art. In the Netflix doc, someone mentions something about the toll having these songs in her head must take. It is something I have wondered about too over the last decade and more.

Taylor Swift is an incredibly talented singer, songwriter, and musician. She has proven that with the very longevity of her career. In the past decade-and-a-half, many pop stars have come, gone, rebuilt, and tried to maintain. Swift is one of the few to succeed in staying at her peak. That takes talent and determination.

The Fame Game

As expected, “Miss Americana” subsequently takes a deep dive into Taylor Swift’s relationship with fame over the years. She has spent many of them awash in the screams of adoring fans in arena venues. When I went to Swift’s concerts for ‘Fearless’ and ‘Speak Now,’ it was something I was struck by. You could see Swift literally stop to take it all in.

It is a moment that “Miss Americana” also showcases, and Taylor Swift reveals it is a high she has lived for. The idea of losing it is something that she also acknowledges as having playing a pivotal role in her life. The Taylor Swift that ends the Netflix doc seems over its hold. Realizing the power approval has had on her life.

Power of the Press

There is a lot that Taylor Swift and “Miss Americana” wade into. Included is a rapid-fire of the brutal and disturbing headlines that have been aimed at her through the years. The vitriol has been palatable, and it cannot be forgotten. I hope that Swift will not. Because as much as she acknowledges specific influences in her decision-making, there is another force she does not take to task as being persuasive.

One of the prisms by which she knows how fans feel is the media, in my opinion. Yes, social media plays its part, but the media is an overwhelming behemoth that casts its heroes and villains in a single news cycle. They built her up and tried to tear her down. I wanted Taylor Swift to dig a little deeper into that element during “Miss Americana.”

The Media's Impact?

The pressure of the press is unlike any otherworldly force for someone in the entertainment industry. They shape a celebrity’s perception of their popularity and how the “people” feel about them. How much have they influenced her in the direction she has taken over the past few years? Taylor Swift did not give an indication.

“Miss Americana” shies away from addressing the press’s pressure and its impact. The deluge has been unrelenting through the years. From how many celebrity friends she has to her previously held silence on politics, the antagonism has been strong, intensely personal, and you have to imagine influential. Taylor Swift talks about “people,” but how many of them work in the media?

My Favorite Part

It is an interesting question. Personally, the best part of “Miss Americana” is how Taylor Swift opens up about her personality, desires, and struggles. As a fellow 30-year-old Sagittarius, I could relate to a lot of what she expressed both personally and career-wise. It is this aspect that I think has been the secret to her success.

Taylor Swift is a mega-talented superstar, and yet what she shared in the doc felt relatable to this lowly soul. How can that be? At the core, “Miss Americana” demonstrates how Swift is capable of creating that sentiment. It is not some strategy either. Swift’s sincerity comes through loud and clear.

Directing Daydream

On that note, I have to applaud Lana Wilson’s direction. The Netflix documentary has an incredibly “swift” pace, and the format is easy to follow, despite jumping around some. “Miss Americana” is the absorbing profile that you want to see a doc conjure and in a critical time. It takes a look at a pop singer still holding on to prominence.

There is so much to get to, and “Miss Americana” understandably does not get to it all. Taylor Swift’s issues with her former label over the masters of her first six albums are one of the things not addressed. Swift could have done a docuseries, and there would not have been enough time for everything.

Left Unspoken

It does tackle a lot. For instance, during “Miss Americana,” Taylor Swift alludes to the strain trying to stay on top has had. You can practically feel the gravitational pull as she speaks. It has to be exhausting. By the end, “Miss Americana” reinforced what I thought I knew, but was ready to admit may not be accurate.

After watching, I still think Taylor Swift is a good and sensitive person who has been impacted by the response she has gotten through the years. To that point, “Miss Americana” opens with Swift reacting to the Grammy’s snub of 'Reputation.’ After watching, I still wonder how much snubs and other swipes have played into things. Has the girl with the curls and easy smile grown-up? Or has she been destroyed?

After watching it, I hope it is the former. I may not have gotten confirmation of my theory that the breathy hook in “Me!” was inspired by Lamaze, but I will survive. If “Miss Americana” ever gets a sequel, that (among other aspects) could be something for Taylor Swift and collaborators to explore. For now, this moving Netflix documentary will have time to breathe with its fresh and airy take on an icon.

Rating: 9/10

The Taylor Swift documentary “Miss Americana” is currently streaming on Netflix.

[Featured Image by Netflix]