Lady Gaga: Popstar. Award-Winning Artist. Fashion Icon. World-wide Phenomenon. Person?
This last point is what “Gaga: Five Foot Two” is trying to convince its audience of. Stripping back the layers of persona and costume, this biopic attempts to show you the “real Gaga,” a 31 year old woman suffering from chronic pain and heartbreak while transforming her image and creating her latest album Joanne.
The film starts out with a shot of Gaga’s sparkly boots being lifted, along with the rest of her, in the air for her Super Bowl Halftime Show performance, and then cuts to her feeding dogs in her backyard. Most of the documentary is structured this way, cutting between footage of the Gaga we all see — performing on stage and greeting fans as she exits buildings — and the Gaga few rarely see, suffering from chronic, debilitating pain and going through the stresses of releasing music and creating performances to please her audience.
The documentary tries its best to seem as authentic as possible, with shaky camera movements and more than one tearful breakdown. While it does make you feel sympathetic to Gaga and her struggles with chronic pain, it is also clear that she is hyperaware of the camera at all times. A producer on the project, Gaga seems to be trying all at once to be herself and be who we think she “authentically” is. It is a juxtaposition that can’t be ignored, but it doesn’t make the documentary any less enjoyable — it adds to the mystery as to who the real Gaga actually is.
Her creation of her album Joanne leads to some notable cameos by music producer Mark Ronson and musical goddess Florence Welch, as well as several appearances by members of her family. Joanne is named after Gaga’s aunt, who died at the age of 19, and so Gaga’s dedication of this album to her aunt affects her whole family. In one scene, Gaga shows the song “Joanne” to her grandmother and her father, and while her father has to leave the room — ostensibly because it is too much for him — it is Gaga’s grandmother who ends up comforting Gaga, not the predicted other way around. Gaga is very close with her family every time we see her with them, which adds to her humanization.
Throughout the film, Gaga’s life seems at once a dream and a nightmare. Her career is taking off as her new album tops the charts, she gets to perform the Super Bowl Halftime Show and is cast as the lead in the movie “A Star is Born.” Despite all this success, her engagement to Taylor Kinney falls apart at the beginning of the documentary and her chronic pain from her hip injury in 2013, as well as her fibromyalgia, make everyday tasks unbearable.
We see her having to balance her life as a performer with her life as a human being most strikingly when her doctor’s appointment runs late and her team starts doing her makeup as she is still on the doctor’s table.
All this being said, this documentary makes you want to be Gaga’s friend, to sit next to her as she smokes on the sidewalk, witness her in the studio, help her when she’s crying from pain. The film makes you love her, not in spite of her flaws, but because of them. Though this intent sometimes comes off as cliché, for so many Gaga fans, it will be the intimate look into her life and her music that they’ve always wanted. You grow to love this wild New Yorker and root for her success, even when she has “mini-meltdowns” on set of “American Horror Story,” or in rehearsal leading up to the Super Bowl.
“Gaga: Five Foot Two” may not be a fully “real” look into Lady Gaga’s life, but we should not expect this from a performer whose job it is to make you feel like you know them while still maintaining some privacy in their lives. “Gaga: Five Foot Two” is an enjoyable film with an intriguing subject and does what it intends — it makes someone as outrageously two-dimensional as Gaga into a real person.
Contact Sydney Rodosevich at [email protected].