Framing Britney Spears Review
Written by Ewan Gleadow on 1st October 2021
As the court case that ended the overbearing conservatorship comes to a close, so does production on several documentaries detailing the life, times and tribulations of Britney Spears. The outcry and fallout is a tense one. Framing Britney Spears capitalises on the controversy but does not explain it. Spears was a superstar name. She still is, but for different reasons. It is that crossover, from megastar of the pop world to tabloid fodder and public fascination with her personal life that Framing Britney Spears and director Samantha Stark should focus on. It is not, though. This fluff piece charts the rise and fall of a former chart-topper, but the detail is sparse and the impact is minimal.
Despite releasing recently, Framing Britney Spears already feels tremendously dated. The shifting of time does that to a documentary profiling a celebrity in the throes of a court case. It happened for Icarus, but at least that had a direct connection with those at the heart of the controversy. Framing Britney Spears cannot connect to its eponymous interest, because there is no way of doing so. Workarounds are one sidestep, but there is no taming the beast that is the public controversy and recent court case outcome. Including those results is not possible, and Stark’s piece finds itself stuck between wanting to talk about the court case and modern relevancy of Spears, but not knowing what the outcome will be.
That does not weaken the information and research collected. That is weak enough on its own. At least it shows the advocates of the “Free Britney” movement and the surge of protests that explain, rather clearly, what conservatorship means. It is pop-oriented and utilises the crashing new era of social media extremely well. Stark may have the know-how to include these social media voices, but showing the impact it has had on the fans is very different to praising the change that was surely felt at the time. Hindsight is a wonderful tool, though. Stark is unable to utilise that, as no documentary maker, no matter how hard they try, can glance into the future.
What Framing Britney Spears becomes then is a loose and brief rundown of a decade-long story that needs a far more in-depth look. Hulu has provided a quick enough turnaround, and that is where the capitalisation comes into play for them. Who can blame them, though? It is a smart business move to make a documentary that will get to grips with the culturally relevant comments, but leave the actual detail in the background. Good business does not mean good quality, as Stark sadly discovered. This passable and brief documentary will do little to stir the movement hoping to free Britney, but what it does have is a small window to showcase those so dedicated and so concerned with the life of a pop star and influential role model. That much is captured well, it’s just a shame the documentary set out to do something completely different. A happenstance inclusion gives new life to this feature, and for that, Stark has caught a lucky break.