REVIEW: ‘Britney vs Spears,’ is Compelling, but Can’t be Viewed in a Vacuum

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Britney vs Spears

In anticipation of Spears’ September 29th conservatorship hearing, a flood of documentaries appeared. Netflix‘s Britney vs Spears, while worth the watch, unfortunately, can’t stand on its own as separate from other documentaries about the conservatorship. Directed by Erin Lee Carr (At the Heart of Gold; How to Fix a Drug Scandal), the documentary takes viewers through the Spears Conservatorship alongside Carr and journalist Jenny Eliscu.

Britney vs Spears is set up around a long table, with Carr and Eliscu front and center guiding viewers through the conservatorship. They have documents spread out along the table and photographs of the major players. Additionally, the documentary boasts exclusive interviews and confidential evidence. Such evidence is quite damning and takes the form of emails and court documents the team worked to verify independently. The source themself was kept anonymous. Overall, the information is very compelling. However, it is challenging to say the documentary could sustain itself without any predecessors.

The primary issue with Britney vs Spears is it almost operates under the impression that one has been following the case on some level and has likely seen Framing Britney Spears, the explosive documentary that aired in February, and focused on how media attention altered society’s perceptive on Spears as a young woman and contributed to her becoming trapped in the conservatorship. Full disclosure, I had seen the documentary, and while watching this one, I approached it as objectively as possible. This point is not to pit two different works against each other. Unfortunately, the documentary dives into the conservatorship so quickly, and more of the mechanics of how it happened, instead of the why. With the exception of a few disturbing clips of media members literally tailing Spears’ car as she drove all the way home, if viewers hadn’t seen prior coverage of this case, they might be confused just who the major players are and how the conservatorship was able to be “argued” in court in the first place. While taking a different angle is encouraged, Britney vs Spears lacks thoroughness. It feels supplementary, rather than stand alone when one is viewing it.

That doesn’t mean the documentary is boring by any means. It is incredibly infuriating, especially when Carr questions medical professionals whose names turned up on documents, and they dodge questions as though it were an elementary school dodgeball game. The most substantial part of Britney vs Spears is the fact that it breaks down how many loopholes can be found in the conservatorship system. It’s as though we are watching a widely public hostage situation that is entirely legal on paper. If it happens to a prolific white woman, lord only knows the predatory conservatorships that aren’t getting national attention.

Watching Britney vs Spears is a conflicting experience. On some levels, while it is essential to illustrate predatory conservatorships and how deep the corruption goes, the chaotic media attention that led her here is now digging up the most traumatic parts of her life once again for views by the nation. Even a close friend of Spears, Felicia Culotta, seems exhausted and much less inclined to talk in this interview (since she is mainly asked the same questions as always) than others she has done. There are also interviews with men previously involved in Spears’ life, who other coverage have framed as predatory: Adnan Ghalib and Sam Lutfi. While it is refreshing to see another perspective, and in a way, allows them to plead their case, the waters are certainly muddied on if this documentary is taking their side. This is mainly because no alternate perspective is presented aside from the media headlines on the men. Once again, if one were to know how they were perceived by others outside the media, they would have had to watch other documentaries before this to realize why these exclusive interviews were meant to set the documentary apart from others. Ultimately, it presents the facts of the conservatorship and the documents. Still, it doesn’t feel as though a tremendous amount of digging is done aside from the confidential papers given to them by an anonymous source. It is worth watching but may not feel substantial enough to satisfy viewers if this is the sole documentary on the subject they view.

Britney vs Spears has director Carr, and journalist Eliscu lay out (literally) Britney Spears’ conservatorship chronologically for viewers. It is compelling and worth the watch for those interested in the case. It features exclusive interviews with Ghalib and Lutfi, which are a new angle, although its lack of an alternate perspective makes it feel a lot more like it is taking their side. Overall, it raises good points but feels like it is missing something unless viewers come into it already aware of certain information. In the increasingly large amount of coverage on the Spears conservatorship, this one is just…okay.

Britney vs Spears is streaming now on Netflix.


Britney vs. Spears
  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10
6/10

TL;DR

Britney vs Spears has director Carr, and journalist Eliscu lay out (literally) Britney Spears’ conservatorship chronologically for viewers. It is compelling and worth the watch for those interested in the case. It features exclusive interviews with Ghalib and Lutfi, which are a new angle, although its lack of an alternate perspective makes it feel a lot more like it is taking their side. Overall, it raises good points but feels like it is missing something unless viewers come into it already aware of certain information. In the increasingly large amount of coverage on the Spears conservatorship, this one is just…okay.