Take away the private jets, the screaming throngs, the relationship with the Obamas, the rich rapper husband, the stage extravaganzas, the glam squad, the luxury vacations, and Beyonce and I are a pretty much living parallel lives.
We're both just sweet, simple hard-working, God-fearing gals trying to figure out and make our way through this crazy thing called life.
That's what I gleaned from "Beyonce: Life Is But a Dream" (9 p.m. Saturday, HBO), the about 30-minutes-too-long documentary produced, directed by and starring Bey. The superstar perfectionist wants us to witness a time of change and growth in her life, when she took the reigns of her career and truly became the independent woman of whom she often sings.
Bey starts her story by showing us the Houston home she grew up in. It's nothing like the Marcy Projects of hubby's Jay-Z's youth; it's pretty dang nice. She has memories of popsicles and sunshine and her dad. The dad part is important; the film, in part, is about growing up and sadly, it seems, away from her father. Seems poppa Matthew Knowles didn't take her firing him as her manager well, despite the fact that it was for loving reasons. She wanted him to just be her dad. Her longing for and sadness over that lost relationship is genuinely sad.
The film is a mix of concert footage, home videos (past and present) and Bey sharing her video diary; apparently when she has no one to talk to she talks into her computer. That seems to happen a lot.
We don't hear much from Jay-Z, although he and Bey seem to sing together fairly often, and it's clear she adores him. She's now on record for saying that Jay taught her how to be a woman. And an artist too.
And WE GET TO SEE BLUE IVY'S FACE! Or at least what she looked like during the early months of her first year. She's cute.
"Life Is But A Dream" was conceived, I believe, as our most personal look at Beyonce ever, but I think you'll leave where you started. Unless you didn't know that sometimes Beyonce might be sad, or confused or that money doesn't eliminate all your problems (raise your hand if you'd rather be rich with problems versus poor with problems), you won't leave really knowing anything about her. What do she and Jay talk about? Is there a part of the world she'd like to visit? If she wasn't a performer,w what would she have done? What's her worst fear? Her favorite color? What was all that Destiny Child's stuff really about? I can't tell if Beyonce is so practiced at the art of seeming to reveal without actually revealing that she thinks revealing she's human is revelatory, if she really thinks we don't think she is human and so this fairly superficial stuff is illuminating or if this is as interesting and introspective as she gets.
Overall, like many diaries, "Life Is But A Dream" is full of the kind of stuff that seems profound to the teller, but not to you, and maybe with time, not all that profound to the teller. It's awfully sincere though, and Beyonce, even when she gets a little tough with the help (when she's putting together the show) seems kind and delightfully grateful for the special life she's getting to live.
I don't happen to think it's a bad thing to imagine that there's something spectacularly different about those who live these extraordinary lives versus the rest of us. I get that Beyonce is human, but I don't mind thinking she's superhuman too; that it's not just her voice, hard work and luck that separates us. When you're broke, there's something comforting about believing money could solve all your problems, that stars of stage and screen aren't like us. For Beyonce "Life Is But A Dream" means life is a dream come true. As a fan, I just like dreaming of a life like hers.