Five Things We Learned from That Beyoncé Documentary on HBO
Life is But a Dream, the HBO documentary about Beyoncé that was directed and produced by Beyoncé, premiered over the weekend. Did you watch it? Of course not, you're much too cool for that. Luckily for you, we ain't, because it was a pretty interesting little film.
Not due to the narrative, mind you, which was really pretty dull. Basically, our favorite homegrown diva walks us through the joys and anxieties of the last couple years of her life since firing her father, Matthew Knowles, as her manager and charting her own course in the biz (oh, and becoming a mommy along the way).
The film was hyped as an unvarnished look at Beyoncé's life, but who honestly believed that? She directed, produced and starred in the thing: We only see and hear what she wants us to. At best, it's a trumped-up episode of "Making the Video." At worst, it's the exceedingly boring video diary of a beautiful control freak.
Still, there were a few revealing moments on display - not all of them expected. Because your mom is too cheap to shell out for HBO, we've helpfully compiled here the top five things we learned from Life is But a Dream:
5. She hasn't forgotten her Houston roots.
The doc opens with a shot of Beyoncé's childhood home, a nice brick-and-stucco mansion in one of our city's upper-middle-class neighborhoods. She probably owns servants' quarters larger than this place today, but it's clear from the loving, lingering footage of the place that the singer sees it as the cradle in which her life and career were conceived.
"That house is my foundation," she says. Subtle.
Beyoncé sounds downright wistful as she describes growing up surrounded by a loving, supportive family in the Bayou City. These days, of course, Beyoncé can (and more or less does) live anywhere in the world she so chooses. Still, Houston remains a special place to her. As more than a few of us not-so-famous Houstonians have learned the hard way over the years, there's no place quite like home.
4. She's got some daddy issues.
Perhaps no one has played a bigger role in Beyoncé's professional success than Matthew Knowles, and the singer had nothing but kind words for her father in the film. Several times, she praises the music industry knowledge and business acumen that she learned watching him operate as her manager, including the realization that politeness and success in the cutthroat world of entertainment don't always go hand in hand.
"My dad knew that I needed his approval, and I think my father wouldn't give it to me because he kept pushing me, and pushing me, and pushing me," she says. "Every time my dad pushed me, I got better and stronger."
Classic stage parent, right? Shocking that thing didn't end well when she decided to fire her dad and strike out on her own.
Beyoncé carefully couches her reasoning for breaking with her father in a need to achieve total independence as a woman, an artist and a businessperson in the doc. That certainly fits in neatly with her favorite artistic themes, but it's obvious that the break has damaged her relationship with her father.
There were heavy rumors back in 2011 that Matthew's infidelity played a major role in Beyoncé's decision to run her own show: Knowles fathered a child outside of his marriage in 2010.
None of that is addressed in Life is But a Dream. Even when opening up, Beyoncé still keeps Dad's dark side off limits. Nevertheless, his presence looms large in the film. Certainly seems as though the star looks back fondly on the days when her career was a family business, despite her personal triumphs (and disappointments) since.
3. She always looks good. Always.
One of the most anticipated aspects of Life if But a Dream was the prurient desire to see Beyoncé "off stage:" i.e., with no makeup, no wardrobe and maybe even a crooked weave or two. Well, there's no shortage of footage in the film of the singer barefaced, wearing sweaty workout gear or pajamas. But if you were hoping to catch her looking even halfway busted in the early morning or the middle of the night, you were shit out of luck.
Whether on a boat with the wind blowing her hair, lying on the couch in her living room or shooting a casual, confessional-style segment on her laptop, Beyoncé still looks flat-out superhumanly gorgeous. Now, obviously, there could have been footage of her looking haggard that was left behind on the cutting room floor, but from all appearances in this flick, her beauty is the result of tough workouts and great genes, not Hollywood stylists.
2. She had a miscarriage.
As much as HBO hyped the behind-the-scenes, off-limits nature of the footage Beyoncé collected for this film, Life is But a Dream didn't contain a whole hell of a lot of startling revelations. Save for one: Before Blue Ivy Carter was even a glimmer in her eye, Beyoncé suffered a miscarriage - as traumatic an event as can befall a first-time mother.
For the first time, Beyoncé opens up a bit publicly about the excitement she felt when she first heard the fetus' heartbeat in her doctor's office, only to suffer crushing pain and disappointment when that heartbeat stopped. There's no question that Beyoncé chose to share this moment of intimate vulnerability with her fans as a way to humanize herself, which some may find a tad cynical. But hell, it does humanize our favorite diva.
It's the type of real-life hell that everyone goes through in life, no matter how bootylicious they were born. Luckily, that sad chapter was far from the end of her reproductive adventures. Jay-Z is one lucky son of a bitch.
1. She cuts her own hair, dude.
Seriously. She cuts her own hair at one point in the movie. This is a woman who probably has a team devoted to cutting her toenails, and there she is trimming her own tresses. Sure, her mother ran her own beauty salon for years, but still... it takes a hell of a lot of confidence for a star known for her gorgeous locks to take out the scissors and start snipping away in her dressing room.
Even more incredibly? Her hair looks better when she's done! How amazing is this? Well, imagine Rihanna cutting her own hair for a second. How do you think that would look? (Like shit, that's how.) For Beyoncé, though, self-styling is just another ho-hum superpower. Seems she picked up a few professional skills from both parents.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.