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Apr 25 2019

Doc Corner: Beyonce's 'Homecoming'

ByGlenn Dunks

Reviewing a concert film can be tricky.The lines between what is merely a good concert with good music can become blurred with what is a good film.A concert film can quite easily be one and not the other (I will save you the examples),but to decipher what is what is an equation that it is all too easy to flub the maths on.

In the case of Beyoncé'sHomecoming,the numbers are a bit easier to put together as the film is more up front about its craft – tricky use of editing (those yellow/pink switches!!),the use of retro cinematography filters (Coachella ain't Woodstock),scripted narration and so on.However,even when trying to filter out the rhetoric that often comesalong as baggage with her,it's easy to see thatHomecomingbelongs among the list of great concert documentaries.

It's a joyous and exciting collage of sound and image from a moment in cultural history,a captivating two hours and 17 minutes.

Now,that isn't to say that the film is not extremely calculated and manipulative.The multi-hyphenate who is here on performing,producing,writing and directing duties (the latter alongside Ed Burke) is no less performing for us the viewer as "BEYONCÉ"than Madonna was inTruth or Dare.It's just that she trades frank discussions of sex,fame,family and identity for those of race,personal truth and empowerment.But that's why it works.She's finally more than just a singer with bops.Naturally,some will try to make you believe it's less superficial than Madonna's film as is the want of contemporary pop culture.More authentic.More important.They would be wrong and don't let anybody try to convince you otherwise.They are both politically and socially relevant with thrilling stage performances and glimpses of the quote unquote "real"person behind it.Beyoncé just doesn't perform oral sex on a beer bottle.

As a movie-watching experience,Homecomingcould have shaved a few tracks from its playlist.Especially since most of the songs have not been reworked or remixed.The peaks of the setlist are obviously still great,but there is so much here that parts inevitably come off as filler.Certainly,some of them could have been nixed in favor of seeing more of the backstage and behind the scenes efforts that went into putting together this two-night Coachella extravaganza.We get the briefest of tidbits about the impressive sets,the fab costumes,and the exhaustive process of developing the extensive choreography.The finished product is a just reward,but there's something of a small missed opportunity to bring her fans closer into the world of how Beyoncé puts on a show.

But what the movie does best of all is continue what Beyoncé started with theLemonadefilm that aired on HBO in 2016 and put forward an idea of the performer that is far beyond what we have seen from her public persona over the last 15 years.Even as a die-hard Destiny's Child fan,I often found her solo career somewhat frustrating – like a contestant onProject RunwayorRuPaul's Drag Racewho does great,often even brilliant work,and yet is just missing something that makesthemas fascinating as their work.Lemonadechanged that musically and politically and nowHomecomingis the final stamp.A genuine leap in her skills as a musician and a creative.A homecoming – or more accurately,a graduation – of her own as a performer that I am thankful we have memorialised on film and done so in a way that captures the thrill of her Coachella set and the power of her music's messages where she speaks of Historical Black Colleges and Universities and black history.Their impact on her (although she did not attend) and her collaborators is clear.She has put on a show of pride and I relished it,learning almost as much as I was entertained.

Lastly,since the film is ultimately a memorandum on Beyoncé herself,it's perhaps worth mentioning that Beyoncé is two years younger than Madonna was when she releasedRay of Lightover two decades ago.If people think she will escape the ageism and misogyny that comes to women in entertainment,then I suspect they have another thing coming.At leastHomecomingwill be a shining beacon of everything she was capable of.

Release:Currently streaming on Netflix.

Oscar Chances:Ineligible most likely,but the Emmy's will surely bite.

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Reader Comments (25)

I liked the song Sweet Dreams.

April 25,2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

As good as Beyoncé gets...

Not very.

April 25,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMe

Too self important and a bit too long.Beyoncé gets lost on me.

April 25,2019 | Unregistered CommenterV.

Ageism for Black women isn't equivalent to their white counterparts.Regina King is nearing 50 and still looked too young to portray the character she was playing.

April 25,2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

What kind of review was this?You barely talk about the film at all,and you don't even mention a single song title.Film reviews in general lack discussion of film soundtracks,but how can you completely ignore one for a concert film?You discuss everything,Madonna (several times for some reason) and even Rupaul's Drag Race (as if a drag queen on a reality show can compare at all to one of the greatest black cultural signifiers of our times).Yet you don't even mention a single performance moment of the film.Even someone who didn't watch the film could've written this review.Not even a basic surface level discussion of any kind of musical choices.Not.A.Single.Word.

"At least Homecoming will be a shining beacon of everything she was capable of."

Why are you already mourning a career that isn't over?Why does it seem like you're rooting for her to be dragged down by our deeply fucked up society?The difference between Madonna and Beyoncé is that one is an anti-black racist who cast aside her artistic and musical integrity and the other roots herself in black,radical tradition.

April 25,2019 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

Someone is coming for you Glenn.

April 25,2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

markgordonuk - Sweet Dreams isn't even on the set list...It's literally not even in the film.

OT: Reading the comments here emphasizes the racist white fag readership.Go figure.

April 25,2019 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

I just think Sweet Dreams is her greatest accomplishment as a song,no political angle just pop.

April 25,2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Captive audiences are HARD to find in 2019.Beyonce came close with Lemonade and her two Super Bowl appearances.So did Gaga with A Star is Born and her Super Bowl appearance.I can't remember the last time Rihanna,Katy Perry,Taylor Swift,etc.pulled anything like that off.

Manufacturing an event where the eyes of the world will be on you?Not as easy as it used to be,for sure.Even for people who still chart well.Only the fans are listening 99 percent of the time.

April 25,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMLVC


April 25,2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

This really is her at her peak.

Some of her vocals are among her best ever I think.And the dancing,I mean.

Calculated,sure,but WHAT A SHOW!

April 25,2019 | Unregistered CommenterShmeebs

What a horrendous review.Of course this white fag can't go two sentences without mentioning Madonna despite this ostensibly being about an accomplished and talented Black woman.

April 26,2019 | Unregistered CommenterTess

beyaccount = Tess

April 26,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMe

Yes because it's crazy that more than one person can have similar opinions.

April 26,2019 | Unregistered CommenterTess

And also hurl the same homophobic slurs.Be proud of yourself

April 26,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMe

I don't get the over emotional responses.Beyoncé is a technically very talented performer who releases a decent single about once an album.Overrated,yet still great depending on taste.Also,Rupaul is much more charismatic and interesting,so more drag race than bey is fine by me.

April 26,2019 | Unregistered CommenterLaquisha

There's someone posting with the name "Laquisha".Seriously guys?

April 26,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJake

The crazy thing about Beyonce's stardom to me is that she hasn't given a proper interview in years and years.Almost everything she's credited with politically,socially (hell,even academically) is projection.She makes art.The Roxanne Gays of the world translate it into discourse.The activists of the world translate it into slogans.The fans reinforce it commercially.

Then Bey gets credit for the art itself AND the discourse AND the "activism,"to the extent that mugs and hashtags are activism.Without really *saying* a word.

April 26,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMLVC

Considering the amount of work this woman puts on,basically facing almost every type of discrimination all while being such a great activist fighting a lot of this type of issues,it sucks how we found ourselves here with a review reducing her to a comparison with another white person.Didn't even feel like a review.Not only that,considering the amount of white mediocrity the author promotes on this site it makes you think.Nathaniel,get more diversity among your contribuitors.Especially of opinion.And geez,this comment section it's such a discrimination fest of all type it feels ironically hilarious under a Beyoncé article.

April 26,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

beyaccount --Cool it with the homophobia.Do unto others etcetera.I don't need homophobes to be calling our writers and readers fags in the comments.I'll have to start deleting comments if people start aiming slurs at other readers.

Somehow in one comments section you've managed to insult all queer readers and call Madonna racist all in reaction to an article that praises Beyonce's artistry several times.Maybe the problem is you?

Me34 --The only reason comparisons with Madonna should be upsetting is if you dont respect Madonna which is your problem,not Glenns.Glenn loves Madonna so it's a flattering comparison.They're very correlative performers,each totally dominating the conversation about pop artistry in their eras,each making concert documentaries which were wildly acclaimed (hence the Truth or Dare references) and each being a daring performer often at the center of political artistic performative button-pushing in their eras.I dont think its a weird comparison at all...

April 26,2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

MLVC -- totally.It's impressive that Beyonce keeps managing it.I remember I was in Iceland on a press trip when her surprise album came out six years ago...and I was shocked that all the way over in Iceland it sort of dominated the conversation for the whole day.

It's interesting what you're saying about lack of interviews.I actually think more artists should do that bcause artists often get in the way of their own work when they talk.The work itself,once it's done,is up to the audience to interrupt anyway.It no longer belongs solely to the artist.

April 26,2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nathaniel - Way to zero in on a single word choice of mine to somehow negate everything I'm saying.If you're going to claim I'm homophobic (me,a homosexual myself) for using a reclaimed gay slur,then you will also have to concede that Madonna is racist for calling her OWN SON the N-word and making her black children massage her feet and post it to Instagram.

Not to mention the COUNTLESS other times she has exhibited even grosser,undeniably racist behavior.You don't want to try it.The internet has the receipts.

April 26,2019 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

On another note,isn't it funny the way white fragility manifests itself?Somehow the racist readership of the website (see above,the micro-aggressions of naming oneself Laquisha in a thread about a film on black empowerment,which you conveniently ignore) have become the victims.

April 26,2019 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

And subsequently,I have become the "problem".An interesting choice of word by you,is it not?

April 26,2019 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

What a crazy conversation,I think that someone is being racist so I'll use homophobic slurs?Gee,that's dumb.And there are many gay people that are homophobic,so try again.

@Nathaniel,you pretty much explained the Madonna comparison,I personally wished the review focused a little bit more in the songs as well but I just wanna say that I love Glenn' contributions in here.

April 27,2019 | Unregistered CommenterTony Fernando

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