By Gregory Crofton
Taylor Swift is brilliant, no doubt. She was that annoying nerd in high school who did everything right, but in her case songwriting and entertaining, not being class president, was the game to play.
One of the few people who could best her was Kanye West. But only because his sneak attack came onstage at the MTV awards when she was 19.
Her run-ins with West ultimately served as a catalyst for positive change and personal growth. And “Miss Americana” is the story of Taylor Swift growing up.
The best parts of the film its moments of empowerment for women, like when she mocks having been trained to be meek by society: “Sorry, was I loud? In my own house. That I bought. With the songs that I wrote about my own life.”
But with Academy-Award winner Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom) as on board as a producer, director Lana Wilson (After Tiller, The Departure) shows the parts of Swift’s life that everyone agreed to share. Don’t expect this young star to take any real knocks on her character.
Instead you’ll see a politically charged story that makes Swift look heroic while pushing a calculated message — not nearly as bad as Swift’s Capital One ad campaign, but in the same vein.
“Miss Americana,” overall, is still an entertaining and personal film, one that includes a number of interesting moments that reveal her songwriting process. Clearly Swift is determined to be the best at what she does, and the doc mentions her maniacal work ethic more than once.
“Keith Richards: Under the Influence” (2015), a doc directed by Neville, could be companion piece to “Miss Americana.” Both move fast and go down easy, but promo docs are a drag on the genre. There has been a recent wave of this type of film — Justin Bieber just released a docuseries on YouTube — made to be quick hits and amplify record sales.
You can find “Miss Americana,” apparently the title is a loose reference to one of Swift’s older hit songs, streaming on Netflix.