I’ll bet Lady Gaga’s fans never realized just how much their iconic tiny dynamo has in common with the late Jerry Lewis.
Lewis injured himself, just as his fame was cresting in the mid-1960s, by pulling a slide-across-the-piano pratfall on his TV show. He lived with chronic back pain the rest of his life — wheelchairs, injections and finally managed that pain when a medicine pump was installed to keep that pain from reaching his brain. This was after decades of trooping on, in the grand showbiz tradition, playing through that pain.
Gaga (born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) broke her hip five years ago. And ever since, it’s been injections, exotic “cupping” treatments, massages, electro-therapy — all to lesson the pain of fibramyalgia.
That’s the big take-away from the tiny dancer’s new Netflix documentary, “Gaga: Five foot Two.” We see her creating, recording, prepping for the 2016 Super Bowl halftime show.
She’s all here, over 30 and out in the open, in and out of makeup, hugging fans and family, in various states of attire — generally as little as possible. She seems to relish the shock value of toplessness — while she still can pull it off.
The towering talent and huge voice shine through, as does the short, insecure-in-her-looks pop icon, captured in between boyfriends and fretting and weeping that she’ll never have another. Whatever contemporaries Taylor Swift and Katy Perry and Rihanna have going for them in the dating game, the most-over-the-top-of-them-all is starting to wonder if her fame, her tendency to show way too much skin and put on larger than life spectaculars that dwarf her humanity might scare any man who isn’t a gold digger away.
See her trash-talk Madonna (who insulted the derivative nature of her persona), thrash out the songs that became the “Joanne” album, prep for the Super Bowl and do media appearances in support of it.
Watch her (clumsily, at times) drive the ’60s Lincoln convertible, the 1970 or so Ford Bronco, the 1980 Mercedes — restored vehicles from her family’s history.
See her weep with genuine concern over sick friends and relatives, but somehow make it about her “losing” someone as karmic payback for her every success.
Her more stripped-down shows — an appearance for candidate Hillary Clinton, for instance — seem to point to where her career should go. Let the talent and not the titillation carry her forward. But even as she cancels legs of her rigorous, gimmicky tours, she fights this future. She has “underboob” to invent and new frontiers in shorter-shortest shorts to explore.
It’s not a great documentary, and considering how many of these she has released, it’s not a particularly revealing one — outside of her efforts (doctor’s visits, treatments) to deal with this ongoing pain.
But the Lady is a trouper. Let’s hope she finds some relief and maybe abandons the whole camel-toe/daily dye job fashion thing before she turns into Cher, way before her time.
MPAA Rating: unrated, nudity, profanity, smoking
Cast: Lady Gaga (Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) Florence Welch, Mark Ronson, her family, producers and entourage
Credits:Directed by Chris Moukarbel. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:40