Thank u, Netflix: ‘ariana grande: excuse me, i love you’ is glamorous relic of live performance

Photo from Ariana show
Netflix/Courtesy

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Grade: 3.5/5.0

If you’ve been looking for an excuse to break from those thigh-high platform boots, the time is now. Thanks to Netflix’s newest concert movie of quarantine, “34+35” fans can step back into a pre-Positions soundscape to follow Ariana Grande through her “Sweetener World Tour,” which supported Sweetener and thank u, next in 2019. Released on Dec. 21, a year after the tour’s finish, “ariana grande: excuse me, i love you” reminds us all of the wonder and bonding power of live music.

Even watching the film at home — where we’re watching pretty much everything these days — can bring a small audience together. The opening credits’ upside-down text is enough to make any boomer-aged parent say things like “What does that say?” and “Something’s wrong with the picture, check the settings.”

Viewers are immediately thrown into a stage performance of “God is a woman” at London’s O2 Arena, Grande and her focused troupe seated at a Last Supper-inspired dining table. The camera delicately traces over each dancer, situated in a sensually DaVincian pose, to visually introduce the personalities Grande spends each night of her tour with.

A montage of backstage interviews is woven between performances, glimpsing into dance rehearsals and chatting with the team while playing with stage equipment and pampering any of Grande’s near dozen pets. Familiar faces, such as Grande’s manager Scooter Braun and mom Joan Grande, make candid appearances, but the intermission scenes could have used more narration overall. Keeping some scenes purely observational left missed opportunities for overhead storytelling.

Anyone expecting a Grande documentary out of “excuse me, i love you” should prepare to be a little disappointed, as the film’s central focus is on the stage performances and its behind-the-scenes creation rather than Grande’s individual escapades and come-up story. But, like Beyoncé’s “Homecoming” film in 2019, Grande’s cinematic concert introduces long-time fans and newcomers alike to everyone responsible for making such a sweet experience bloom.

The moments that do feel more intimate, such as Grande talking about her dogs’ secretion of not-sweet nightmares all over her room while she cried to Kristin Chenoweth on FaceTime, bring humanity to Grande’s otherwise opulent, fast-lane life. Viewers are warmed by Joan Grande seeking out emotional superfans from the nosebleed sections and offering their families coveted floor seats.

As dancers and managers are introduced, titles such as “best friend” and “best human” define genuine backstage relationships. Even the crowd shots of Grande’s fans — a monumental feat compared to the likes of some other concert films — are flattering and show the artist’s admiration for them. The audio deliciously mixes together Grande’s whistle tones with fans’ echoed singing, imitating the full experience of watching the show live.

Grande sustains her voice powerfully throughout the whole performance without so much as breaking a sweat. The seasoned artist exudes control, and even after all these years, it’s near impossible to hear “Tattooed Heart” live and not experience the same chills you felt listening to Yours Truly for the first time in 2013.

In her always trademarked high ponytail, Grande seemingly plays a new character with each song, sparking confidence with the spicy choreography in “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” and high-fashion, voguing ease in “Be Alright.”

All that fans have been manifesting for Grande over these last trying years is happiness, and by the looks of it, this it-girl is paving her own way and literally taking names as she goes. As she says, “Happiness is the same price as red-bottoms.” Boyfriends may come and go, but from the looks of it, it’s an artist’s touring family that lasts forever.

Contact Skylar De Paul at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.