Framing Britney Spears. Review.

There tend to be two different strains of the viral documentary. True crime pieces have been sold and packaged by the media as having some form of insanity within them. (Tiger King says hello.) Secondly celebrity culture tales about established public figures. These either frame themselves as exposes or explanations of the media history surrounding the sad person. The new Hulu/FX/ New York Times Britney Spears documentary fits squarely in the second category. It’s an incredibly straight forward linear examination of the singers rise to fame, mental breakdown and subsequent conservatorships on the part of her father. Whatever one thinks of Spears musical output her ongoing case is one of the most fascinating celebrity media stories of the last 20 years. It’s ripe for a deep dive examination that a documentary if done well could provide. Unfortunately, Framing Britney Spears ( well fine for what it is)doesn’t not going to fit that role. A whistle-stop tour of the major beats within the Spears storey the piece sees huge benefit from the fact that what it is documenting remains engaging regardless of presentation. With its relatively brief 75 minute runtime, this film is a good testament to this. That said the creative teems choice of brevity over examination or analysis means the final product doesn’t achieve its full potential. There is one other critical factor that hampers any arguments behind this work might have put forward. Well, it would be unfair to call the piece unauthorised ( it does have contributions from those who worked closely with Spears at several points in her career) access to any critical figures in the ongoing legal proceedings are elusive. The documentary even concludes with a list of people who were contacted for comment and either did not respond or refused to participate the list ends by informers the viewer that staff did attempt to contact Speers through her representation but they aren’t even sure if she received the message. This fact alone is a good indicator of the inherent sadness inbuilt into this ongoing story and why it has such a large audience. This is both in terms of the people who look at Spears as nothing more than a piece of media spectacle those the truly want to see her freed from the bonds of conservatorships. The sense of red tape and very broad fast pacing kill any opportunities this documentary might have had to be much more effective beyond an engaging cliff notes summary.
It’s not hard to see why Framing Britney Spears fits the established viral documentary mould. It’s an engaging look at a fascinating and tragic celebrity narrative that has emerged a willing public for 20 years and counting. Nevertheless, it’s hard not to feel like the choice to focus on accessibility over throughness kills any chance the film might have had at being more definitive documentation of the ongoing Spears case.

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