“Miss Americana” Movie Review

Story posted February 5, 2020 in Arts & Entertainment by Jade Campos.

After 14 years in the spotlight, Taylor Swift has finally earned her first full length film. “Miss Americana” isn’t a career spanning “tell all” documentary about a good girl gone wrong. Rather, it’s the story of a woman realizing her potential after spending years in the shadows.

“Miss Americana” originally premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival before becoming widely available for streaming on Netflix on January 31. The film comes after weeks of controversy between Swift and her former record producer at Big Machine Records, Scott Borchetta. The pair took to social media to debate Swift’s legal rights to her old music for use in the documentary.

The debacle was only a preface of the challenges in the music industry Swift has faced.

The documentary focuses primarily on Swift’s life during the creation of her sixth studio album, “reputation,” until the release of her latest album, “Lover.” Although there is little reference to her life before 2016, the film’s director, Lana Wilson, created an incredibly nuanced look into the moments that challenged Swift’s life.

Swift’s transformation in the film takes her from a naive country singer intent on bathing in the approval of the world into a woman focused on her own social causes and interests.

“I had to deconstruct an entire belief system, toss it out and reject it,” Swift declares, explaining why the period in her life was so difficult yet informative after spending years following the careful instruction to avoid interfering in politics.

Wilson makes no insistence that Swift is a regular person just trying to live a normal life despite being a multi-millionaire pop star. Rather, she shows all of the reasons why Swift is anything but ordinary. She takes private jets with dogs, greets screaming fans in her front yard every day and confronts stalkers sleeping in her bed practically on the daily.

Throughout the 2010s Swift remained relatively silent on her political beliefs, which caused many people to criticize her for not standing up for social rights. With the influence of her management team, the singer was trying to find that identity of being a normal girl just trying to make a living. Audiences see the click, though, in “Miss Americana” — the moment she realized that she could never be normal, which made her incredibly important.

Swift sifts through all of the moments in her life that forced her into reexamining who she is and what she stands for.

The documentary gives the answers to what was going on behind the scenes throughout Swift’s sexual assault case, her Democratic endorsement on Instagram and the making of “You Need to Calm Down.” Wilson provides all of the context to the moments Swift has been criticized for, showing that there’s more than meets the eye as the singer insists on speaking up more instead of simply claiming what she stands for. She looks to provide the voice behind her actions.

There is a tactful amount of coverage on Swift’s personal life, including her mother’s battle with cancer and her relationship with current boyfriend Joe Alwyn. Wilson’s decision to include short segments of the two was important in emphasizing their influence on Swift’s growth as a person (she mentions figuring out what’s important in life when your mother’s sick with cancer compared to Twitter hating you), though how self created Swift truly is — especially now.

The film was not a look into all of the private moments Swift shares with Alwyn (though it may be what some were seeking). He is only a facet of this life changing period in her life, because the greater focus is the way Swift recreated herself...by herself.

“Miss Americana” isn’t just the story of Taylor Swift. The film highlights all of the closed door moments female celebrities experience in a sexist industry. Swift spoke candidly about suffering with an eating disorder and accepting the eventual end of her success as she approaches her thirties. She isn’t going without a fight, though, as she seeks for the future women in the industry to feel more comfortable in the public eye than she did.

That’s what makes “Miss Americana” so special. It’s a story for all women, multi-millionaire or not. The documentary is an inside perspective on the hardships women face every day through the eyes of one of the world’s most criticized women. For all of the moments in which a woman was talked over by a man, not believed or called “washed up” for getting older.

Once audiences make it to the end of the film, they see the transformation of a silent pop star into a vigilant rights activist with a platform. “Miss Americana” is a call to action for women across the world to stick firmly to their beliefs and take pride in their successes despite a sexist society working against them.

Rating: 4/5


Jade Campos is a sophomore majoring in print journalism. To contact her, email jmc7727@psu.edu.