For those who can’t imagine growing tired of Beyonce Knowles’ flawless face (or the rest of her), try going 90 wearisome minutes with “Life Is But a Dream,” a vanity project that puts tolerance for showbiz self-obsession to the test. Candid video, rehearsals, recording sessions, concert footage, and an extended minimal-makeup interview are cobbled together into this not-quite documentary, in which the singer grapples with success, and even shares her baby’s Ultrasound. “I always battle with how much do I reveal about myself,” she muses. Except for the most adoring fans, clearly a whole lot less than this.
Granted, it’s hard to second-guess HBO for catching hold of the Beyonce Express, coming on the heels of her widely seen performances at the Presidential inauguration and Super Bowl. In terms of exposure, the star’s flame has probably never burned brighter.
Still, with the star doubling as producer and co-director of a project ostensibly designed to share her innermost thoughts, having someone — anyone — empowered to say “Cut!” would have been helpful.
As is, Beyonce is left to mull the great mysteries surrounding the price of her fame, and the challenge, as an artist and person, of not becoming captive to it. Yet while these are legitimate questions to ponder, they’re also awfully high-class problems, interspersed with the little matter of when and how to reveal to the world she’s pregnant; breaking ties with her dad; or the fact that she really, really loves her husband.
Knowles references tabloid rumors regarding her that she attributes to the tendency to believe the worst about “crazy” celebrities. To her credit, she comes across as reasonably grounded and enormously talented.
Embarking on such a project is riskier than, say, simply agreeing to shoot a concert film. Having chosen to open up in this fashion, though, she ultimately doesn’t have anything particularly profound to share — including her ruminations on motherhood and faith. In that respect, “Life Is But a Dream” simply plays like a video diary, a less-salacious version of the brand of self-confessional “celeb-reality” shows overpopulating cable TV, albeit with lower-octane stars.
HBO is associated with aiming higher, but the only element within the film that screams “premium” radiates from the lady herself. Then again, by essentially writing Beyonce a blank check to do whatever she pleases, the channel’s brass are hardly the first people in Hollywood to make a bad decision when bedazzled by a pretty face.