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Framing Britney Spears Review: Calls lawyers and podcasters obnoxious, “feels as much like a true-crime documentary as a primetime newsmagazine report” but “even without real answers, [it] communicates dark truths”

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It’s a long read, I’ll include some excerpts. 

The new documentary inspired by the #FreeBritney movement begins the only way it rightly could: with a montage of fans voicing their support for Britney Spears. A man with a megaphone leads a crowd in a call-and-response chant: “What do we want?” “FREE BRITNEY!” “When do we want it?” “NOW!” A series of video messages posted to social media briefly explains the pop star’s plight and offers personalized “Dear Britney” messages, expressing sentiments such as, “Your whole situation is consuming me now.” Outside a courthouse, masked protestors hold signs with slogans like “BRITNEY SPEARS DESERVES HER FREEDOM” and “FREE BRITNEY *****.” Eventually Spears’ own words from an old interview are looped in. She addresses the need to control your own destiny in show business and asserts her own responsibility for her success. We hear from an assortment of obnoxious podcasters and lawyers about her situation. Spears’ monologue culminates with this: “There are things out there that have been said about me that aren’t completely true. There’s a lot that people don’t know about me that I want them to know.”

Nearly two decades later, it feels like the public knows less about Britney Spears than ever. The mystery surrounding her lends a crackling tension to Framing Britney Spears, the latest installment of FX and Hulu’s documentary series The New York Times Presents. It also prevents the film, which premieres this Friday, from making any juicy revelations about the current state of Spears’ courtroom saga. Instead of breaking news, director Samantha Stark’s movie works as a portrait of powerful forces in modern America, in particular the celebrity obsession that contributed mightily to Spears’ various rises and falls. Feeling as much like a true-crime documentary as a primetime newsmagazine report, it tells an extremely sad story at the intersection of many kinds of greed, exploitation, and dysfunction.


Via archival footage and an array of interviews, Stark traces Britney’s career from childhood to the present, almost completely ignoring her music in favor of a focus on the destructive forces that plagued her from start to finish. We see her famous 1992 Star Searchappearance, in which Ed McMahon wonders whether 10-year-old Britney has a boyfriend. Soon the story is breezing through biographical touchstones including The Mickey Mouse Club, the “…Baby One More Time” video, her proclamation of virginity, and the misogynistic fallout from her romance with Justin Timberlake. Soon we’re on to her surprise marriage to Federline (her quickly annulled prior union to Jason Alexander is omitted), critiques of her parenting, and breathless coverage of her divorce and subsequent “unraveling.” One especially scathing issue of the New York Post depicts Spears between Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton under the headline “Bimbo summit.”


The gaping hole in the movie, though, is a lack of participation from Britney or her immediate family: not Jamie, not her mother Lynne, not her little sister Jamie Lynn nor her big brother Bryan. (Footage of Bryan attempting to tell an interviewer as little as possible does appear near the end.) The closest we get is Felicia Culotta, a family friend who traveled as Britney’s chaperone and personal assistant while her parents raised Jamie Lynn back in Kentwood, Louisiana — and who was later relegated to leading backstage tours when Jamie took over the Britney business. Because we don’t hear from the people at the center of her conservatorship case, we’re left with more questions than answers about her current ordeal and the real inner workings of her family life. Framing is mostly left with hearsay about the necessity of the conservatorship and Britney’s feelings about it then and now. It strongly implies certain conclusions nonetheless, painting Jamie as an absentee father who hoped his daughter would help him get rich someday and swooped in to capitalize when the opportunity presented itself.


In the absence of the Spears family, we’re treated to commentary from NYTjournalists (senior editor Liz Day, critic Wesley Morris, music reporter Joe Coscarelli), figures who crossed paths with Britney over the years such as former talent scouts and MTV VJs, and lawyers who at one point were involved with her case, who suggest that (1) Britney’s conservatorship is extremely uncommon and (2) no conservatorship is likely to end. A former Us Weekly photo editor and the photographer whose car Britney attacked with an umbrella each show up to sheepishly defend their own behavior. And then there are Babs Gray and Tess Barker, hosts of the Britney’s Gram podcast, whose close examination of Spears’ Instagram account helped give rise to the #FreeBritney movement.


Source: StereoGum

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well, I think it was to be expected that no juicy revelations were going to occur, without the involvement of the people that are really part of this whole thing, besides Britney of course. Maybe it would've been more interesting to hear Larry Rudolph's current version of the story, or one of her ex-boyfriends, or someone even more important, like Billy B :jj_janet_smirk_hehe_haha_lmao_lol_giggle:

But the point is to make her situation more known to the public :yaknow_britney_xfactor_X_factor_talk_tell_chat_you_know:

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3 hours ago, MikeSim said:

 We hear from an assortment of obnoxious podcasters "

So I guess this a confirmation that the Britney's Gram dweebs are in it? I was really hoping to not have to see Lorde's less talented cousin, and the other one that looks like Hortensia from Matilda. 

Yeah you can see them in the trailer. I forgot which one is which but you can see an arm and hair of the blonde chick and the chick with the glasses and curly hair is the one who mentions something about “going on behind the scenes.”  

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1 hour ago, PZHSB said:

We have to keep in mind that the documentary isn’t just for the super fans. My hope is that it lays out all the facts for the uninformed viewer to see how shady all this really is. 

I 100% get that. That’s why I’m nervous because we need people to watch this and not have the perception of “obnoxious podcasters” and “conspiracy super fans” among other things. Then to highlight the fact that there is ““no one credible”” like Britney herself or direct family just makes me nervous and makes me think people might not take it seriously if that is the perception of more people than just this writer. The silver lining is that we know it is HUGE that Fe is in it, even if she doesn’t say anything new. The... not... silver lining is that we already know the important stuff and we understand the importance of the people who appear and the conservatorship in general, but we need GP to understand as well. So I’m hoping that the persistent questioning of the c-ship that was persistent in the trailer is the theme that is pushed through the entire presentation. 

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