“Let me make a promise. I’ll solely let you know my darkest secrets and techniques.”
That is Selena Gomez’s solemn pledge, given solely minutes into the Grand Prairie native’s documentary, Selena Gomez: My Thoughts & Me, launched November 4 on Apple TV+. This enterprise will come as no shock to the followers who’re effectively conscious of the famous person’s penchant for vulnerability, whether or not she’s sharing her struggles with psychological well being or talking overtly about her journey with the autoimmune illness lupus.
The movie’s director, Alek Keshishian (Madonna: Fact or Dare, a staple of the celeb self-produced documentary style) doesn’t shrink back from revealing the singer’s tough moments. In the course of the rehearsal for her 2016 tour, Gomez is seen crying to her managers backstage. “I don’t know what the f— I’m doing. . . . It sucks the life out of me and I don’t wish to carry out,” she sobs. Family and friends emotionally recount Gomez’s hospitalization in a psychiatric facility, which finally resulted in a analysis of bipolar dysfunction. Earlier than every of Gomez’s countless skilled obligations, arms and make-up brushes flit across the singer as she stares despondently, the sunshine gone from her eyes. It’s as if the digicam, the stylists, and the hangers-on that encompass her aren’t there. It’s nearly as if Gomez herself isn’t there.
Even for these of us who’ve grown up watching Gomez on-screen, it’s clear that there’s a facet to the actor-singer we’ve by no means seen earlier than. Over the course of six years of footage whittled right down to a 95-minute movie, we study extra about Gomez’s tumultuous relationship with fame, bearing witness to tough moments comparable to the choice to chop brief her Revival tour and a slew of media interviews that made Gomez really feel “low-cost” and “like a product.” The movie is uncooked however at occasions overwrought because it weaves sorrowful diary entries and intimate conversations with child movies and tour footage, emphasizing the truth that regardless of all of the glitz and glamour, Selena Gomez remains to be figuring herself out like the remainder of us. A number of occasions all through the movie, she repeats that after working for the reason that age of seven, she not craves fame. However what Gomez craves as a substitute stays unclear.
The position of a star documentary isn’t just to get rid of among the elusiveness that comes with fame, it’s additionally to redefine a sure picture and current a brand new “period” for the topic. Within the case of My Thoughts & Me, Gomez isn’t simply giving her followers perception into her well being struggles; she’s additionally establishing herself as a philanthropist and a psychological well being advocate. She desperately needs to persuade her followers—and herself, it appears—that she’s greater than only a pop star with a Disney previous.
However whereas Gomez’s psychological well being struggles are obvious, different elements of her narrative don’t come throughout as successfully. Tradition author Sydney Urbanek writes of the celebrity-documentary method, solidified in Beyoncé’s 2013 documentary, Life Is However a Dream: “There’s additionally the usage of prophetic dwelling video footage from her childhood, some staged ‘candid’ moments along with her family members, and the odd efficiency phase to interrupt issues up.” My Thoughts & Me doesn’t escape this conference—the fast jumps from diary entries and rehearsals to dwelling movies and world journeys preserve the story shallow. Maybe the largest instance of confusion is when an interview triggers a reminiscence of Gomez’s Disney previous. “ what it’s, is it made me really feel like Disney,” she cries, earlier than the scene cuts to Gomez smiling and greeting followers. There are only a few moments the place the star appears joyful about what she’s doing, and the selection to not embody them—in the event that they even exist—additional emphasizes that it’s unclear why Gomez is placing herself by way of the gauntlet of celeb. All through My Thoughts & Me, the singer reiterates that although she doesn’t wish to be well-known for its personal sake, she needs to make use of her affect for good. But, scene after scene, we watch Gomez break down. If she actually needs to be a philanthropist, why does she proceed to partake in a life that appears to make her desperately sad? Keshishian doesn’t present us.
At one level, Gomez is requested about her final dream. She responds, “That I may very well be a voice for others who possibly don’t know what’s happening or what they’re feeling.” If psychological well being advocacy is her ardour, Gomez is clearly making strides, having just lately created a psychological well being fund and a free “psychological health” platform. However, by glossing over among the concrete work Gomez has accomplished, the movie leaves her narrative incomplete. Gomez “solely” needs to inform us her darkest secrets and techniques. The lighter secrets and techniques are left unsaid.