For the love of all that’s holy, LET BRITNEY GO.
Until this happens, until the conservatorship seemingly run for the benefit of Britney Spears‘ family, until their threats of “taking away” her kids, until the lawyer she’s selected and hired to look out for HER interest wins her case, there will be no peace.
Until that happens, we’re going to get one damning documentary after another about her virtual imprisonment under California’s alarming conservatorship laws, about her “best job in show business” dad Jamie, who benefits the most from her conservatorship, and more questions about her actual mental state and fitness to look after her children and herself.
Netflix’s “Britney Vs Spears” covers some of the same ground as “Framing Britney Spears,” the Emmy nominated New York Times-produced documentary from last winter, and probably repeats and shares some sources with the followup “Controlling Britney Spears” doc (botrh directed by Samantah Stark) the Times has done for Hulu.
“Britney Vs Spears” has several characters mostly-vilified off-camera in the earlier Times film. It is built around those fresh interviews, and the reporting of Rolling Stone writer Jenny Eliscu, and everything Spears herself has publicly said and fumed about in court in the months since “Framing Britney” came out.
Spears’ manager has resigned. Her conservator-appointed lawyer quit last summer. And mounting pressure and public outrage and legal maneuvering by Britney’s new lawyer caused Jamie Spears to resign as her conservator and recommend that his little involuntary servitude arrangement with his rich and talented daughter be terminated.
So why see another — OK, TWO more documentaries on this subject? Because documentaries are what pushed this outrageous and admittedly salacious and not that important in the grand scheme of things scandal back into the public eye.
And “Britney Vs Spears” has some of the most damning material yet — financial arrangements, a cache of conservatorship documents obtained by Eliscu and filmmaker Erin Lee Carr that includes a dubious psychiatric opinion on which the “permanent” conservatorship rested.
That “retired geriatric psychiatrist,” Dr. James Spar, sits down on camera, laughs off direct questions about this specific case (privilege, understandable) and comes off like a shrink-for-sale.
Assorted vilified figures like the “friend” and “former manager” Sam Lufti, of “protect Britney from SAM” rumors and conservatorship directives, get to relate their involvement and their efforts to “free” Britney, and thus come off better than they have in the press.
The portrait of the singer that emerges here shows her as a lot more articulate and defiant, but also isolated and insecure to the point where a photographer who pushes through a crush of his fellow paparazzi to help her gas up her Mercedes becomes someone she takes to, “trusts” and then dates, followed by a cinematographer for an MTV doc who also became the next fresh, “trusted” confidante.
The phrase “no one she can trust” comes up a lot, and that is reinforced here. You can almost see why her family frets over who has contact, who gets to date her and her having any more children because these odd mismatches follow one after the other, from Kevin Federline on down the line. They seem rash, impulsive and a tad desperate.
And then you remember the bubble she’s stuck in, and the family’s role in maintaining it, and grind your teeth over their role in creating this isolated adult who grasps at anyone who might help her break free of their control or who just treats her as a human being.
One attempt to gain outside counsel was facilitated by reporter Eliscu, who gets emotional relating passing a new lawyer’s contract to Spears in a restaurant restroom. Spears is that desperate, and people who meet her and get to know her all seem to want to help. She’s like that.
Director Carr and her editor do a brilliant job of taking us inside the paparazzi frenzy that poor Spears was subjected to, a blur of hand-held camera footage taken by a pap mid-mob, almost constantly for years on end.
“Britney Vs Spears” adds just enough to the story to be worth the obsessed-viewer’s trouble, and let’s face it, they weren’t going to abandon the film just because the less-insider New York Times scooped them. “Vs” has enough scoops of its own to merit release.
But let’s hope this last blast of docs is the end of it, and that Spears, for good or for ill, gains control of her life, her person, her career and her future once and for all. And that maybe she has the good sense to walk away from it, at least until Hollywood buys the rights to her biopic.
Rating: TV-MA, profanity
Cast: Britney Spears, Jamie Spears, Sam Lufti, Adnan Ghalib, Felicia Culotta, Jenny Eliscu and Erin Lee Carr.
Credits: Directed by Erin Lee Carr, reported by Jenny Eliscu. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:34