Britney vs Spears

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Britney vs Spears poster.
Britney vs Spears poster.
Photo: Netflix


Britney vs Spears




3/5 Stars


Journalist Jenny Eliscu and filmmaker Erin Lee Carr investigate Britney Spears' fight for freedom through exclusive interviews and confidential evidence.


If you haven't been following the headlines, Netflix's Britney vs Spears summarises the singer's ongoing conservatorship well. If you've already seen the New York Times' Framing Britney Spears, it offers further insight into what's really been going on. It's hard not to compare the two films, having followed Britney's case for so long, but one thing's clear in both: the singer had talent, she had power, she had control, and she was great. And then they stripped it all away.

The first half of Britney vs Spears documents the years leading up to the pop star's meltdown in the early 2000s. It's very similar to Framing Britney Spears but necessary to tell her story, albeit very difficult and uncomfortable to watch.

The paparazzi followed her for years, but she played the game well. Things escalated, however, following her messy divorce from Kevin Federline and the loss of custody of her sons. These trashy scenes were particularly challenging to watch all over again and painted the pop star in a rather unflattering light. But she was scared; she wanted to feel safe. In walks Adnan Ghalib, Sam Lufti and a few others, who, despite the headlines, are redeemed in the film as the only ones assisting Britney once the conservatorship was in place.

The documentary does well to explain the purpose of a conservatorship, all the while demonstrating Britney was more than capable of staying in control of her work, her finances, her person. Filmmaker Erin Lee Carr and Rolling Stone journalist Jenny Eliscu narrate as they investigate the case and are perfect at doing so because they're invested; having followed her story from the beginning, they genuinely care. So when they start unearthing previously sealed documents, you go through the motions with them, notably as they reveal Britney fought the conservatorship time and time again, only for them to "squash" those appeals. It's clear this was a gross miscarriage of justice – and there were more people involved than just Jamie Spears.

I would've liked to have seen more of the #FreeBritney movement's influence as her conservatorship gained steam and more of what's been going on since her bombshell testimony earlier this year. But I suppose it's too soon to get into all that now.

However, what the film does promise is new information, and they do deliver, further cementing the fact that the industry, the media, and the people involved in her conservatorship saw an opportunity to exploit the singer's downfall – and have kept keeping her down ever since. Until, as the filmmakers say, she screamed.

"I have a lot to say, so bear with me," the film concludes with Britney's testimony, finally giving the singer a voice – I can't think of a better way to have ended the documentary. "I don't think I was heard on any level when I came to court the last time. I brought four sheets of paper in my hand and wrote in length what I have been through the last four months before I came there. The people who did that to me should not be able to walk away so easily. I'll recap..."

The singer details the abuse she faced, explains, though she was put under conservatorship as if she could not work and make her own decisions, she was directing her tours, teaching her dancers new choreography – working tirelessly. And when she said enough, they put her on lithium, prevented her from making decisions that affected her personal life, all while her family watched.

Though some may gawk at the representation of Britney's life in the film, again, the singer herself at least sums it up well, as she asks the court to give her her life back.

She proclaims: "I wasn't good. I was great."


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