Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields:
CRITIC’S PICK. Absorbing…a biography of Shields with lucid insights into the culture that shaped her. Builds a mood of reminiscence gone rancid, and suggests a generation of women transformed by the prototypes society boxed them into. Supremely well-crafted. A documentary of fascinating depth that holds our voyeuristic image culture up to the light. Lana Wilson's accomplished film traces how Brooke Shields' career was at the forefront of our culture's sexualization of girls, and shows what it was like for her to live a life inside that image.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety
Intimate and unflinching. The ultimately affirming story of a woman who took back her life. Thoughtful and moving. At its heart, Pretty Baby is the story of the terrible toll that sexual and commercial objectification takes on women. Of how relentlessly young girls — especially those born fitting into our idea of beauty — can be seized upon, monetized, objectified and ground down. Of how female sexuality so easily turns into a transactional commodity. Ms. Shields's story is triumphant and moving. Powerful and empowering, a portrait of a constantly transforming woman on the journey to finally understanding her identity. An unflinching doc that charts a journey from victim to survivor. CERTIFIED FRESH. An exposé of ugly cultural forces, Pretty Baby is disturbing and triumphant in equal measure. Absorbing and relevant. A timely doc about Hollywood, hyper-sexualization, and a star's resilience. Insightful, well-crafted, and inspirational. Should be mandatory viewing for parents — or anyone — before they put a kid on camera. Pretty Baby isn’t always pretty in chronicling everything that Shields endured, but in terms of placing a spotlight on the media excesses that surrounded and defined her rise to fame, it is, with the benefit of hindsight, pretty amazing indeed.
Brian Lowry, CNN
Examines not just Shields’s star persona, but the obsessive and damaging nature of stardom itself. Honest and incisive, Pretty Baby critiques a toxic culture that perpetuates misogyny and is complicit in the sexualization and objectification of young girls. Makes it clear how much the young Shields was let down by an industry that too often saw her as a commodity instead of a human being. A thoughtful examination of the way society objectifies and sexualizes girls and young women.
CRITIC'S PICK. Thrilling...an enormously winsome documentary about Swift's long path to self-acceptance. The power of Miss Americana is in watching someone who stands astride the world gradually realize that her art is the only thing that she can control. CRITIC'S PICK. 85 minutes of translucence with Taylor Swift. There's more in it - and more to it - than you usually get with these pop superstar portraits. Wilson has captured Swift at a convincing turning point, ready, perhaps, to say a lot more. Excellent. A compelling and thoughtful portrait of an artist reckoning with what she’s capable of, and, more interestingly, what the culture will accept from her. A deep dive into a pop star's life and a probing look at what it's like to be a woman. ★★★★. Intimate and open...whether or not you're a fan of Swift at the start, you're likely to be by the end. ★★★★. As insightful a pop artist documentary as you could hope for. The access Miss Americana offers feels unprecedented. An illuminating, empowering portrait of Taylor Swift at a turning point in her career, a meditation on the loneliness of fame, and a study on why women - even very famous women - aren’t treated the same as men. A-. Smart and funny and intimate and feels like the kind of insight you actually want into a superstar. A sweet, funny, emotional crowd-pleaser. ★★★★. Remarkable. Miss Americana is about Swift breaking free of that 16-year-old 'good girl' she was and becoming the multidimensional 30-year-old woman she is today. A fascinating look at the ridiculous double standards and extreme pressures put upon young women who grow up in the spotlight. Stirring. Swift’s desire to be liked colliding with people not liking her is the ultimate celebrity problem, but the doc is smart about injecting it with social meaning by making the case that it stems from gender. Fascinating and inspiring. An insightful analysis of the just-turned-30 global phenom and a tribute to those qualities that make her worth following. Refreshing...uses Taylor Swift's story as a way to cast a wider look at the complexities of female celebrity. Entrancing...intimate and specific. Watching Swift peck out lyrics on a phone and then deliver them seconds later is like seeing Michael Jordan effortlessly sink three-pointers at practice. Endearing and surprisingly unflinching…Miss Americana traces the pop star’s highs and lows to understand where she’s arrived as an artist.
Ashlie D. Stevens, Salon
A sparkling deconstruction of pop stardom. ★★★★. A spirited, earnest portrait of a self-aware and staggeringly influential artist.
Ella Kemp, NME
Shines a bright light on the music star that's a perfect celebration for fans - and may well generate more than a few new ones. Deeply and surprisingly personal. With humor and heartbreak, Miss Americana takes what could have been just another pop star documentary and elevates it to a level rarely achieved by the genre. Director Lana Wilson and her team captured moments that felt personal, vulnerable, and deeply authentic, and they did so with a skill and artistry that Instagram Live stories just can't match. Miss Americana is truly iconic. Beautiful... lets us experience the journey that one of the biggest artists in the world has lived. Explosive and empowering. Grade: A. A surprisingly relatable feminist story about a woman constantly combatting systemic misogyny.
Courteney Larocca, Insider
The most exceptional film of 2020. Exquisite...a transcendent experience. The most intimate look at her inner world that the singer/songwriter has granted any journalist to date.
Caitlin White, Uproxx
Provocative and inspiring, Miss Americana provides intimate insight into the life of the world-renowned pop star, and a thought-provoking exploration of the dark side of fame. Fascinating…personal and relatable. Excellent. Where the film really proves that Swift actually could be just like us is in her internal ethical struggles—and her innate desire to be liked by other people. These conflicts are on a much grander scale than yours or mine. Swift’s drive for approval isn’t just a desire—it’s her livelihood.
Ellen Johnson, Paste
Miss Americana will make you laugh, cry, scream, and sing along. It's about Swift's transition from a girl into a woman — from someone who kept quiet to someone who speaks up for what she believes in. ★★★★★. A backstage look at a grown-up Swift. Chronicles Swift’s rocky path to and through fame in a way that ends with a message of hope. A coming-of-age story about growing up in public.
Sean Burns, WBUR
A deconstruction of the myth of Taylor Swift. Miss Americana is not just a summary of Taylor Swift's journey as a musician and a woman, but a film that inspires every woman to fight for their rights, to stop apologizing for existing, and to champion themselves.
It’s not often one can have a genuinely spiritual experience watching a movie. But that’s precisely what’s on offer with The Departure, Lana Wilson’s quietly galvanizing portrait of life, death and the thin places in between. A film that explores life’s toughest and most transcendent moments with tenderness, honesty and care. A work of art. A beautiful meditation on the value of life. By the way, this is a documentary. But after the first few seconds, you won’t even notice. Tender and quietly moving... The Departure is like a haiku. Poetic...profound...devastating. Wilson handles the emotional subject matter with a subtle restraint that makes the film all the more moving. The Departure beautifully illustrates how meaningful life can be. Wilson's film, a quiet wonder, emphasizes the courage it takes to choose the hard work of living. Immensely moving. Lyrical and deeply meditative… digs deep into major questions without being afraid of the answers. One of the most moving films at this year's festival...gorgeous and contemplative. The Departure is a powerful work of documentary, cinema, advocacy, and art. A cinematic spiritual quest. A trip to the mountain top that will leave you moved, teary eyed, and utterly vibrating with the sense of feeling alive. A small quiet film that is thunderous in its effect. A beautiful, wise, and deeply empathetic immersion into one fascinating character's unique approach to suicide prevention. A quietly impressive work whose images, characters, and ruminations linger on long after the lights come up. There is something incredible about The Departure...it feels like the darkest, riskiest act of perseverance, a movie that sets you in constant darkness and forces you to gather why you, dear reader, have chosen life. A lyrical statement on the meaning of life...The Departure is a moving, philosophical exercise on understanding and cherishing life by confronting the finiteness of it. [Nemoto's] teaching is as much about embracing life as it is about facing death. He offers hope for all. [An] intimate and casually beautiful character study of Buddhist priest Ittetsu Nemoto... There’s something tremendously profound about his mission and how he approaches it, and Wilson’s sensitive approach honors it, following his example of listening, sympathizing, and respecting the complexity of human emotions. Would that we were all so kind, as filmmakers and as people. Highly empathetic. A tale of an iconoclast that is unexpectedly profound. Emotional… filled me with empathy. Unlike many other documentaries, there are no talking heads. There are no interviews. This is a fly-on-the-wall account following a man who helps so many others but is not taking care of himself. Deeply moving. A poetic meditation on what it means to be human and what it means to be alive.
The most compelling and important documentary of the year, a profoundly moving and genuinely inspiring piece of cinema. Whether one is pro-life, pro-choice or without an opinion on the issue, After Tiller provides personal insight into a heart-wrenching, complex reality. Revelatory…An absorbing, thoughtful report, [and] a welcome exploration of practical and philosophical matters seldom broached across the partisan divide. After Tiller has the power to change the way people think…Does viewers the great service of providing light where there’s usually only heat, giving a human face and heart to what previously might have been an abstract issue. A rare feat…a calm, humanist documentary about a hot-button topic. Well contextualized and sensitively shot with extraordinary access, After Tiller reflects the personal, moral, and ethical struggles of the doctors as well as their patients, and deserves the widest possible audience. Intimate and heartfelt…Brings an emotional clarity to an issue in which every nuanced turn of phrase has been made politically complicated. Extraordinarily compassionate and thought-provoking…An important film that looks unblinkingly at an important subject. Gets to the powerfully complex core of an issue that is widely misunderstood. One of the most courageous pieces of filmmaking I’ve ever seen…Engages viewers’ hearts and minds, reminding us why we need to make and watch documentary films at all.
Susan Gerhard, Fandor
After Tiller is groundbreaking in giving voice not only to the doctors, but to those who always seem to get overlooked in the high-volume political debate about the topic: the women themselves. Any viewer with an interest in this issue, whether pro-choice, pro-life, or agnostic, ought to see this heart-piercing report from the front lines. After Tiller takes the politically divisive, emotionally charged issue of late-term abortions and portrays it with grace, understatement and humanity. A+. A terrific documentary that handles sensitively this controversial and heated topic.