'Beyoncé: Life is But a Dream' review: Glossy, calculated
THE SHOW "Beyoncé: Life Is But a Dream"
WHEN | WHERE Debuts at 9 p.m. Saturday on HBO
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Beyoncé provides a tiny window into her life as an artist and a person, explaining how her private life has changed her public one.
MY SAY Beyoncé directed this documentary -- and that's the problem. Granted, when your celebrity is so big that you can eclipse the inauguration of an American president with the way you choose to sing the national anthem, maybe you really don't have many unguarded moments. However, unguarded Beyoncé is whom people really want to see in a documentary, and she's not here nearly enough.
Yes, she does open up about the miscarriage she had before daughter Blue Ivy was born. "I picked out names," she said. "I envisioned what my child would look like... Literally the week before, I went to the doctor, everything was fine, but there was no heartbeat... It was the saddest thing I've ever been through."
Beyoncé also puts to rest the rumors that she faked her pregnancy, showing off her pregnant belly and snippets of video of her and husband Jay-Z in the delivery room. "People need to have boundaries," she said of "the most ridiculous rumor I've ever heard about me." "There's certain things you shouldn't play around with."
However, much of "Life Is But a Dream" -- named after a line in Blue Ivy's favorite song "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" -- plays like an infomercial. Sure, it's a glossy, well-produced infomercial filled with powerful live performances, but it feels designed to make us want to buy more Beyoncé stuff, especially her most recent album, "4," which failed to yield any Top 10 hits. We hear plenty from B, but nothing from Jay-Z or sister Solange and very little from mother Tina Knowles. There are no interviews with her friends. Can Beyoncé really not have any friends?
The best moments of "Life Is But a Dream" are the truly unscripted ones, like when Jay-Z croons Coldplay's "Yellow" to her or an old clip of her and the rest of Destiny's Child bouncing around the kitchen singing The Cardigans' "Lovefool."
That's when Beyoncé seems most like an ordinary person with extraordinary talents -- the one who's far more likable than the seemingly calculated "Dream" one.
BOTTOM LINE Offering personal revelations to help manage her image