A review of the Netflix Original Documentary, “Gaga: Five Foot Two”
(Featured Image Courtesy: CNN)
She’s dressed down and talking about her physical and emotional pains. She is finally human, again. These were my thoughts when I saw the promo plug for “Gaga: Five Foot Two”, a Lady Gaga documentary produced by the artist herself for Netflix.
I’ve been a Lady Gaga fan since “Poker Face”. I was at her first concert here in Manila, Philippines. I spent 14 thousand pesos (that’s $280) on tickets just so my sister Reggie and I could see her. I asked my television executive producer and our show host to bring me to a ‘by invitation’ press interview so I could touch her skin. MJ, my friend from work did more than just touch her skin, she put a lapel microphone inside her wardrobe, and touched her hand. She was calm, down-to-earth, and probably stoned when we met her upclose. I loved her just the same.
She changed over the years. From crazy she went crazier to craziest and beyond. She lost me somewhere between those levels of crazy. But she got me back when I heard “Million Reasons” on Spotify. She sounded familiar, like some friend I have from work who wants to quit her job, or quit her life altogether. And then I realized the song resonated with me.
The documentary opens with her suspended in the air (probably 20 feet high or more) through a harness for her NFL Superbowl half-time performance. It’s a performance she considers a milestone in her career, her biggest gig to date.
The scene shifts and opens again to Gaga inside her Malibu home, where she shared, “Me and Taylor are fighting.” She was referring to her ex-fiance, actor Taylor Kinney whom she dated for five years.
She went on, “I just feel like my threshold for like bullshit with men is…it’s just — I don’t have one anymore. I just don’t care. I don’t know if it’s because I’m 30 and I feel better than ever, you know? All my insecurities are gone, I don’t feel insecure about who I am as a woman. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of what I have.”
Those were powerful words. She was fully aware of the cameras. Yes, she wanted to make a compelling statement. She got me hooked.
From strong, she went weak and delicate lying face down on a massage bed talking about a physical pain she was going through. She said it came from a trauma in her hip from this injury she had years ago. I looked up Gaga’s medical condition and found out she’s suffering from Fibromyalgia, a disease that causes ‘musculoskeletal’ pain. It probably meant, muscle and bone pain. In another footage she said that her whole body hurts – from her toes, to her hip, to her rib, to her jaw, and ended with “My f*ckin’ face hurts!”
As she reveals her vulnerability with physical pain, she also reveals some emotional pain she was carrying during the making of her fifth studio album, “Joanne” (named after her paternal aunt Joanne Germanotta who died at 19 due to lupus).
As she writes, “Million Reasons” on a piano inside Shangri-la studio in Malibu together with her co-executive album producer Mark Ronson, she shares:
“You have to go to that broken place of your heart to write songs. They say sometimes it’s like open heart surgery you know? Making music. Every time, it’s invasive.”
It was also my first time to hear her issues with Madonna. Another thing apparently causing her some pain:
“Gaga: And so, the thing with, like, me and Madonna, for example, is that I admired her always, and I still admire her, no matter what she might think of me.
Gaga: No I do
Gaga: The only thing that really bothers me about her is that I’m Italian and from New York, you know? So like if I got a problem with somebody, I’m gonna f*cking tell you to your face. But no matter how much respect I have for her as a performer, I could never wrap my head around the fact that she wouldn’t look me in the eye, and tell me that I was reductive, or whatever.
Man: So she’s never given you a call and been like, “What the f*ck you doing?”
Gaga: No no no. Like I saw it on f*cking TV . Telling me that you think I’m a piece of shit through the media is like it’s like a guy passing me, like a note through his friend, “My buddy thinks you’re hot. Here’s his, like…” F*ck you. Like “Where’s your buddy f*cking throwin’ me up against the wall and kissing me?”
Gaga: I just want Madonna to f*cking push me up against the wall and kiss me and tell me I’m a piece of shit
*Million Reasons went on playing, and Gaga went on revealing more sources of pain:
“Gaga: When producers, unlike Mark, start to act like they’re the one — You know, “You’d be nothing without me.” For women, especially. It’s those men have so much power…that they can have women in a way that no other men can.
Gaga: whenever they want, whatever they want, the cocaine, the money, the champagne, the girls, the hottest girls you’ve ever seen. And then, I walk in the room, and it’s like…eight times out of ten, I’m put in that category. And they expect from me what those girls have to offer, when that’s just not at all what I have to offer in any way.
Gaga: like, that’s not why I’m here. I’m not a receptacle for your pain. You know what I mean? I’m not just a place for you to put it.”
In the documentary, however self-aware she may seem, she showed how real and human she could be. Say for instance her candid moments with Florence Welch of “Florence and the Machine” as they record “Hey Girl”.
Like Gaga needed her to remind her she has 25 million followers on Instagram, and 71 million on Twitter as she makes an attempt to post something on social media;
She showed a minor outburst during her taping for “American Horror Story”; and she showed how involved she was with the cancer battle of Sonja from her “Haus of Gaga” (She later died of brain cancer, and the documentary, ‘Gaga: Five foot two’ was dedicated to her).
Her most frail moment was probably when she visited her paternal grandmother Angelina Calderone-Germanotta to let her hear the song, “Joanne” before anyone else could. Her father, Joe Germanotta was also in the room but left before the song finished playing. In an interview outside of the documentary, Gaga recalled, “I never was able to truly understand why my father was so sad. There was something inside of him like a loss or a trauma that I just couldn’t perceive of. So I wanted to make a song that would be really healing to my dad.”
Her dad was very much visible through out the documentary — arriving at recording studios with her, driving her to appointments, accompanying her to music video shoots, and even standing next to her before she was pulled up through a harness for a death-defying stunt as part of her NFL Superbowl halftime show performance.
Her dad had set standards for how a man should show love and support. The standards were probably set too high that Gaga can’t seem to find a suitable one — a man who stays no matter how crazy successful, or just plain crazy she gets.
In a series of footage from a music video shoot, her voice narrates as it breaks:
“I just want to make music, and make people happy, and like go on tour and have a family and like I just can never fit it all right at the same time.
I’m always at a shoot with some f*cking great news, and my love life’s imploded.
…I can’t help but realize that when I sold 10 million records, I lost Matt. I sell 30 million, I lose Luc. You know? I get the movie, I lose Taylor. It’s like a turnover.
This is the third time I’ve had my heart broken like this. But like, I’m just — I’m alone, Brandon, every night. And all these people will leave. Right? They will leave. And then I’ll be alone. And I go from everyone touching me all day and talking at me all day to total silence.”
In the end, she lost Taylor. But she went on to promote and make “Joanne” work.
“Joanne” is not just another album to Gaga, it was a big risk for her — with her career and sanity both at stake.
She says, “I don’t need to have a million wigs on and all that shit to make a statement. I know that we want to elevate everything. I’m trying to elevate everything. But like, I can’t elevate it to a point where I become Lady Gaga again. Yeah, because then it’s like why even why did I make this record?”
“Joanne” is all about her being Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, a full veer away from the Lady Gaga of recent years. This lady who stands five foot two, is still in pain, but strong and willed to live till her next big performance.
“Man: How is this show (Superbowl half-time show) different?
Gaga: I’ve never really done like a lifetime achievement, you know, award, or a performance, like that was meant to celebrate my career. And I feel like this is that moment. And I was thinking this morning about it, and the truth is that there really isn’t anything bigger than this. So I better enjoy it today, because it’s not going to happen again. And the country is so in peril right now and in stress, and I think this is when it is most important to be an artist, and shine. The government doesn’t have the power to change anything in music or in art.
…I think everyone’s going to read into it what they want to read into it. I mean, that’s the way this goes.” (Shrugs shoulders). ###
Note: This review first appeared on my music review site, yanimusic.wordpress.com