THE FIRST TIME WE SEE THE pop star Lady Gaga in her new Netflix documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two (2017), she’s stripped down. We arrive at her home on a sunny afternoon, and the scene looks like any typical upper-middle-class weekday evening. Her face free of makeup, her roots no longer so welcoming of its most recent dye job, and her expectedly showy clothing gone (grey sweatpants over a cotton leotard have replaced the meat dress), she looks the way anyone might following a hard day at work.
After giving her dogs a couple slabs of poultry for supper, Gaga begins preparing dinner, family and friends by her side. As hip-hop blasts through her iPhone speaker, she cracks jokes but worries about relationship troubles. As much as she’d like to dwell on what’s going wrong with her life, though, she can’t — and she doesn’t want to. She’s finally comfortable with who she is. “I’m 30, and I feel better than ever,” she insists. “All my insecurities are gone.”
That statement lingers throughout Five Foot Two, a documentary which gives us an inside look into a year in the life of pop music’s biggest eccentric. In it, we get a glimpse of the recording and the eventual release of Joanne (2016), Gaga’s fifth studio album, and an intimate look into the pre-stages of her acclaimed Super Bowl LI halftime performance. We also see her struggles with chronic pain, her thirst for performative perfection, and her touching relationships with her loved ones. We even get to hear what she really thinks of Madonna.
The movie is predominantly concerned with deconstructing the Lady Gaga persona we’ve come to know. And it does so relatively successfully: we finish the movie thinking of her less as an untouchable musical alien and performer and more as an average woman with a big heart and an even bigger appetite for expressing herself musically.
But Five Foot Two will be most enjoyed by fans who have a clear idea of how much Gaga has changed over the years. As a consumer who’s always admired the songstress but has never necessarily dug deep into her assembly line of projects, I, while certainly being entertained by the feature, consistently felt as though I was missing something. As if I’d be more moved by the picture if I had a more comprehensive understanding of how Gaga has personally developed since we first met her in the late 2000s.
But the movie is nonetheless diverting, and it helps that its subject is so effortlessly charismatic. Ultimately, though, this is a film made for the fans, and that’s as much a weakness as it is a strength. Even if you’re only a casual enthusiast, you’ll still have a good time. Just don’t expect Five Foot Two to be as much fun as the gold standard of behind-the-scenes music docs, Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991). B