Miss Americana made its Sundance debut only a few days ago, but it's already gearing up for its world premiere. Audiences eager to dive into the documentary about Taylor Swift need not wait long, either: Miss Americana is available for streaming on Netflix on Jan. 31, and for those who want a little more out of their documentary premieres, Miss Americana is also getting a limited theatrical release. Either way, audiences should be in for an interesting ride, as the documentary is already garnering some pretty positive buzz.
Miss Americana focuses on a period of Swift's life when she was in full retreat from the public eye. This period came on the heels of a sixth album that received mixed reviews and a wave of backlash regarding her silence during the 2016 presidential election. Swift's reckoning with the latter forms one of the more compelling arcs of the film, as Entertainment Weekly's review highlights. "Watching a young woman try to convince a room full of middle-aged men that declaring her own voting preferences won’t be the end of her career is both galvanizing and depressing; seeing her do it anyway after they disapprove feels like an actual triumph, even if the election results she’s fighting for don’t," they wrote.
Many of the early reviews also tout director Lana Wilson's (After Tiller, The Departure) deft handling of Swift's story, which manages to strike a balance between being "sensationalized PR" and something a little bit more, as IndieWire's review points out. "As Swift observes in the movie, powerful women are given the almost impossible task of being 'strategic' but not 'calculating,' and Wilson is so good at splitting the difference that some of her documentary’s most humanizing moments are beautiful for how they contradict Swift’s intention."
In a chat with Vox, Wilson explained how she wanted to present Swift's retreat from the public eye and how it became one of those "humanizing moments." She told the outlet, "I wanted the movie to start in a way that would signal this movie is going to be different from other pop star movies, by having us hear her, over images of her at the peak of her fame, saying, 'I became the person who everyone wanted me to be.'" She continued, "I always knew I wanted to end the film with her walking back out to the stage, back out into the public eye. Putting her art out there — putting herself out there again, but with this new self-knowledge and self-awareness."
Of course, the entire documentary doesn't just focus on Swift's personal life — though again, that does form a larger part of it — it spends plenty of time looking at Swift's artistic process, which was something Wilson also touched on in her chat with Vox. She said, "It’s fun to watch someone who’s just been such an extraordinary songwriter for 15 years, who has the craft down. I loved watching that. But no one had ever filmed with her in the studio before, so it was a process." In that way, Miss Americana seems to have something for everybody: a look at Swift's personal growth as a commentary on life as a female celebrity and an unbridled, exclusive peek into her creative process. It'll be interesting to see how audiences respond to the documentary, and whether its message lands with them or not.