Gaga: Five Foot Two
Updated: May 24, 2019
An up-close look at the electrifying singer's life.
Streaming on Netflix | 2017 | TV-MA | 1h 40m
Why I watched: I loved A Star is Born. I was so taken with Gaga's performance in it that I wanted more! This Netflix original documentary hit the spot.
You might also like: Amy, the Amy Winehouse documentary, is also streaming on Netflix. Or give Hulu original Ballet Now a watch if you haven't already. It follows another world-class female performer at the to top of her game: Tiler Peck, principal ballerina of the New York City Ballet. It's interesting to compare that film's decision to omit Peck's divorce to Five Foot Two's slight references to Gaga's breakup with fiancé Taylor Kinney.
Liz and I had the distinct pleasure of attending an early screening of A Star is Born and then a Q&A with Bradley Cooper at Georgetown a couple of months ago. Cooper told a story (which he's often repeated in interviews) about meeting Gaga, his Star is Born co-star, at her home for the first time the night after hearing her perform "La Vie en Rose" at a cancer benefit. He said as she walked down the stairs he was wondering what she would look like. Because who knows what Gaga really looks like?
Gaga: Five Foot Two shows us. Seeing this woman, this enigma (the name of her concert residency in Las Vegas), in her own skin is pure delight. The documentary, which Gaga produced, begins right after Warner Brothers has given A Star is Born a green light and right before Gaga learns she'll be performing in the 2017 Super Bowl half time show. It's no secret that she's trying to reinvent herself; she tells us as much in the film. Her music, her makeup, her body, her personality—it's all stripped down now, in stark contrast to the past decade.
Writing for Variety, Owen Gleiberman says, "'Five Foot Two' is certainly a documentary-as-controlled-exposure-as-press-release, but ... [that] doesn’t mean that her candor isn’t 'real.'" Exactly. Five Foot Two seems no less real for being tightly controlled. This is a sentiment that Gaga—and even Ally, her character in A Star is Born—has expressed over and over, though it's not necessarily what people want to hear. All the costumes, the wild makeup, the personas—that is Gaga. Those things aren't covering her up; they're the way she expresses herself.
Five Foot Two is a film that says, this woman has range. And boy, does she ever. Gaga's vocal range, of course, is amazing. Her fashion looks run the gamut from meat dresses to Daisy Dukes and a t-shirt. She also expresses enormous emotional range, kinda like, well, all the rest of us. In a given day she feels physical pain (the remnants of a hip injury), emotional distress (she was going through a painful breakup), worry for loved ones (a dear friend had brain cancer), anxiety over what her family thinks (she wrote a song for her grandmother), euphoria (from successful rehearsals and performances), frustration (things aren't planned well on set), happiness, fun, hunger, tiredness, joy, and more.
The pleasure I felt watching Gaga in her every day moments also gave me pause. The documentary, and the way I felt watching it, reveals something about my (our) ravenous consumption of celebrities—something else Gaga cares deeply about. When performing "Papparazzi"—one of her early dance anthems—at the 2009 VMAs, she drenched herself in blood on stage to show "what fame did to Marilyn Monroe or Anna Nicole Smith," she explains in Five Foot Two. Fame is dangerous, especially for women, Gaga acknowledges, and she never wants to feel like a pawn in someone else's game. When someone wants her to perform, she's going to do it—but never in the way that's expected. She wants to feel like she's always in control.
The very best parts of Five Foot Two are the up-close glimpses of Gaga in her element. During performance sequences, the frames speed up, and we rarely see much of any given act. One exception is when for a benefit event she performs a slowed down acoustic version of "Bad Romance" at the piano. The live audience is utterly captivated, and so was I.
Happy Streaming! Grace