(MENAFN - Arab Times) Homecoming
Singer's concert film provides euphoric experience
Nobody throws a 3 am weeknight
party like Beyonce, who thrilled a pretty substantial portion of the streaming
with the Netflix premiere of 'Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce' very early
Wednesday morning. Bosses and teachers might actually have been shot-term
beneficiaries of this sleep-depriver of a premiere: If you didn't show up at
school or work feeling buzzed enough to run the world – girl, woman or man –
you must've dozed off holding the remote.
There surely hasn't been this big
a national No-Doze night since last Black Friday, only the occasion here was
Black Wednesday. Beyonce hasn't exactly made it a secret that her 2018
Coachella shows – and now the streaming film that documents them – were
designed to bring a specifically African American feel and experience to the
world, basing the whole show in her love for the culture of historically black
colleges and universities.
For the part of the audience that
doesn't require an explainer on drumlines, bugaboos or black sorority
signifiers, the Coachella shows were moving enough to be tear-jerkers as much
as dazzler-dazzlers. Anyone not quite so clued in to every racial or cultural
thing Beyonce was elevating could still feel floored by the righteousness of it
as pure spectacle: What's documented here is surely the first concert in
history you could imagine Cecil B. DeMille and W.E.B. Du Bois being equally
As I was watching this go down
live in Indio last April, I had two immediate thoughts: One was that this was
one of the greatest entertainment experiences I've ever witnessed. The other
was that I really didn't want to think about about the insane level of work,
discipline, control-freakiness and probably torture that went into making
something this massive this seamless.
But Beyonce would very much like
you to think about it, now, a year later. 'What people don't see is the
sacrifice,' she says in one of the movie's many voice-over segments, talking
about the extreme limits to which she pushed her body in developing two-plus
hours of constant, rigorous movement, even as a mother of brand new twins. 'I
definitely pushed myself further than I knew I could. And I learned a very
valuable lesson. I will never, never push myself that far again.' You may be
thinking you'd rather not see how hard she pushed; there's a reason the medium
of dance has inspired more horror movies than screwball comedies.
But 'Homecoming' remains a joyful
affair, even as Bey is making sure she gets a little credit for devoting her
life to exhaustively mastering every last move between breast-feedings. Most
pop superstars who go heavy on the hoofing have a hard time disguising the fact
that they're not really having a great time. But I can't stop thinking about
the sly smile she offers as she and her fellow dancers go into a silly kind of
knock-kneed move as she moves into 'Hold Up'.
If she's faking her enjoyment
there, or all the other times she busts into something between a smirk and a
grin, she's a better actress than she ever let on in her brief fling with
Hollywood. Yes, she can spend parts of the movie telling us that after being up
to 218 pounds before the twins' birth, 'in order to meet my goal, I'm limiting
myself to no bread, no carbs, no sugar, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no alcohol
– and I'm hungry.'
But it feels like it's euphoria
pangs that she's suffering, if anything, when she's on stage, not least of all
when Jay-Z joins her for a duet of 'Deja Vu' that reminds you that these are
real people with real chemistry, not Louvre figures. All that physical
punishment has given her the ability to seem ridiculously relaxed right in the
middle of all that rigid getting in formation.
On a pure documentary level,
there's not much new news here. If you thought that the Beyonce who doesn't
give any interviews anymore is going to open up in hugely unexpected ways just
because she's interviewing herself, you've underestimated her line-drawing
resolve. There is a fascinating section, mid-movie, where she speaks in
voice-over about the difficult pregnancy that caused her to postpone doing
Coachella for a year. 'In the womb, one of my babies' heartbreak paused a few
times, so I had to get an emergency C-section,' she says, echoing statements
she already made in a (naturally) self-penned magazine essay.
were days that I thought I'd never be the same…physically. My strength and
endurance would never be the same … I had to rebuild my body from cut muscles
… In the beginning it was so many muscle spasms that, just internally, my
body was not connected. My mind was not there. My mind wanted to be with my
children.' Was it worth it, or does she regret spending so much time away from
them so she could deliver a message to the children of Indio? Or was it worth
it? An outside documentarian would have asked, but Beyonce is going to draw the
curtain back just so far.
For some of us who were actually
there at Coachella, there might've been a slight fear that you had to be there'
– that we were overselling the show, caught up in the same kind of festival
fever that makes journalists at film fests go crazy with Oscar prophecies.
Re-watching it on film a year later, 'high water mark in 21st century
entertainment' actually almost feels like it's underselling it, just a tad.
It starts off with the best
high-concept Grammy night mega-setpiece you've never seen – a high-concept
'Crazy in Love' that replaces the sampled horns with, like, every college horn
player in the country – and then just keeps ratcheting that intensity up and
down, production number after freshly invigorating production number, until you
cry uncle … or mommy. It couldn't have gone any better, her having to put
#Beychella off for a year, until she dreamed this: It's history's most catching
and delirious case of post-partum euphroria. (RTRS)
By Chris Willman