Beyonce's 'Life Is But a Dream' Documentary Debuts in New York: Review
Oprah Winfrey helps R&B's Queen B pull back the curtain on her personal life at star-studded premiere
Among media types, the verdict has been clear for nearly a decade now: Beyonce is a boring interview. For an artist as famous as she, opportunities to pull back the curtains and let fans into her world off of the stage have been abundant. A “Nightline” or “60 Minutes” segment here, a GQ or Vogue cover story there. But any attempt at learning anything past her favorite cereal (Honey Nut Cheerios, she once told “106 and Park”) have consistently been thwarted with a sweetly delivered statement that can be stripped down and summed up as “It’s none of your business.”
As true as that may be, Beyonce’s refusal to talk about her husband, hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, to speak at length about why she professionally split ways with her father, or go in depth about the pregnancy that led to her first born daughter Blue Ivy has left followers hungry for insight on the woman responsible for so many impassioned, chart-topping songs about love and female empowerment. She can’t sing songs like “Crazy in Love,” “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” and “Irreplaceable” and be emotionally absent, right?
Last night (Feb. 12) at the premiere of her HBO documentary “Life is But a Dream” at New York's Zigfield Theater, Beyonce finally decided to give the world a candid look at what lies within and respond to all of the questions that have gone unanswered for years. In true Beyonce style, it was done on her terms and in grand fashion. The movie was self-directed and compiled mostly of footage she shot herself. In attendance to assist with cutting the ribbon on Beyonce’s personal life was an even more powerful woman: Oprah Winfrey -- who is currently filming the upcoming episode of her OWN channel’s “Next Chapter,” which will feature Beyonce. Celebs like Oprah buddy Gayle King, singer-songwriter The-Dream, actress Angela Bassett and modal Selita Ebanks joined for a first look as well.
“It really lives up to the woman,” Oprah told the theater before the doc began while sitting next to its star. She confessed that she’d already seen “Dream” twice, calling it a phenomenon before coronating the guest of honor as “the beloved mistress of the universe.” Beyonce dedicated "Dream" to Jay-Z and her child, who she hopes will be inspired when Blue watches it some day.
“It’s time for people to see who I am,” Beyonce told Oprah during their brief pre-movie interview. Admittedly, the idea of letting out intimate footage for all to see when it makes its premium cable debut this Saturday (Feb. 16) makes her nervous. Even on Tuesday morning, she confessed, Beyonce woke up asking herself “What did I do?”
In the film, Beyonce gives up 90 minutes of her true self. “I feel like my soul has been tarnished,” Bey’ says just minutes into “Dream,” referring to the aftermath of firing her father Matthew Knowles as manager on the eve of her fourth solo album, “4.” She goes on to explain that she felt like she just wanted a regular father and not to have to speak about business each time they spoke. Their rocky relationship is one of the central focuses of the film.
Another is her love life with hubby Jay-Z (present at the screening), who she credits in the film as being the reason she’s a better friend, artist and woman. During one of the several solo laptop confessionals in the movie, she tells the camera about the uncertainty she feels about her career.
Beyonce’s trying to compete with her multi-platinum past while steering her ship alone for the first time. “I need to listen to ‘Make Love to Me,” she says (likely referring to “1+1”) of how she’ll get over her stress, “and make love to my husband.”
Though the two aren’t shown even giving so much as a peck on the cheek to each other in the doc, there are many intimate moments, like the emotional toast she gave to Jay at his 37th birthday gathering or them playfully singing along to Coldplay’s “Yellow” together.
And then there’s their baby girl, Blue Ivy. Through song, Jay’s said plenty about his daughter -- where she was conceived and more were touched on in his joyous “Glory.” But Beyonce, not so much. However, in the doc she reveals that her pregnancy was not planned.
In the midst of releasing “4” and prepping a massive world tour, Bey’ finds out that she’s with child. Her 2011 Billboard Music Awards appearance was the first time she performed knowing she was pregnant. During rehearsals for the major performance, she’s seen taking breaks to run to her room to deal with nausea.
But that queasiness paled in comparison to the sickness she felt when she found out years prior that a child she had been carrying died inside her. During one of the heavier scenes in the movie, Beyonce talks about the miscarriage, explaining that two visits to her doctor were a night and day experiences. On one trip, the baby was fine and thriving. And on the next, “There was no heartbeat.”
Getting back to work and into the studio was her catharsis. The first song she penned for “4” was dedicated to the kid that never was and her “saddest song ever.” “You took the life right out of me,” she belts. “I’m longing for your heartbeat.” That’s what makes Blue flourishing that much more of a blessing to her parents. Beyonce glows showing off her pregnant belly and remains gorgeous as grandmother-to-be Tina (a former salon owner) places rollers and a hair net on her daughter in the delivery room.
“Life is But a Dream” is a pleasant surprise of a watch. “ She’s really funny,” one audience member said surprised, as if unaware Beyonce was capable of humor. She’s been a superstar musician and in the spotlight for years, with adjectives like “strong,” “gifted” and “brilliant” being thrown her way for just as long.
But as the final moments of the film passed with Beyonce amongst family, cradling her curly-haired newborn with grandpa Matthew proudly looking on, she has, at last, earned a new descriptor: “Real.” The well-oiled, media-trained, hit-making machine has a heart. And it’s huge.