Lady Gaga’s new Netflix documentary is difficult to watch. It’s also necessary viewing.

Video via Netflix

 

In Five Foot Two, we see Lady Gaga at her most vulnerable.

The Netflix documentary follows the singer as she works on her fifth studio album Joanne and in the lead up to her Super Bowl performance earlier this year.

“Intimate” is the most frequent word being used to describe the film and it’s spot on, almost painfully so.

For much of Lady Gaga’s career, we’ve seen the character and persona. The performer wearing a meat dress, arriving in an egg, being larger than life on stage in eccentric costumes.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 01: Lady GaGa attends the Mac Viva Glam Launch hosted by Sharon Osbourne at Ill Bottaccio on March 1, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

In the film, like the sound of her latest album, we see it stripped back. Bare. Raw.

Gaga, real name Stefani Germanotta, starts off the documentary by saying how much more confident she feels now she's 30.

Advertisement

"My threshold for bullshit from men, doesn't exist anymore. I don't know if it's because I'm 30 and feeling better than ever but I don't feel insecure about who I am as a woman," she says.

"I'm not embarrassed or ashamed of what I have. I just feel a bit more sexier, sexual, All of that shit is better."

In her home, surrounded by staff and friends, she does look content. Her hair's up, she's wearing no makeup and a leotard and track pants.

Lady-Gaga-netflix-doc-social

She references problems with former fiance actor Taylor Kinney, but doesn't go into too much detail.

"Well in relationships, you've got to move together as much as you can, I guess," she says, before taking her lunch upstairs to her bedroom.

She's saying all the right things, but at other times, the singer looks so vulnerable, so unsure that you want to sweep her into a hug.

An injury from years ago has been dogging her, causing her serious pain.

"If I get depressed, my body can spasm. And it all kind of originates from trauma in my hip from an injury years ago," she says.

She talks about men in the music industry, both those she's worked with and come across, taking advantage of her. Faced with the highs and lows that come with fame, she's had to employ her own strategy to survive.

"When they wanted me to be sexy or pop I always put some weird twist on it that meant I was still in control," she tells the camera, cigarette in hand.

"So if I'm going to be sexy on stage at The VMAs singing about the paparazzi, I'm going to do it while bleeding to death and remind you what fame did to Marilyn Monroe. To Anna Nicole Smith."

MORE FROM tv '

She pauses, looking knowingly at a friend sitting next to her. "To... do you know who? [to the camera] You can use none of that footage."

The inference is she is - or could be - another blonde victim.

Revolving around the recording of her latest album, Joanne, we're introduced the rest of the Germanotta family.

The album is named after the singer's father's sister, who died aged 19 of Lupus. She was an artist,  and after discovering lesions on her hands, the doctors advised immediate amputation of both. Joanne's mother, Lady Gaga's grandmother, took her home, refusing to let her daughter's last memories be of losing the things she loved the most.

It's a story - or message - the singer appears to strongly identify with, enough to write a song and name her album after the aunt she never met. There's an emotional scene where she first plays her tribute to her grandmother and father. Her father walks out, tears in his eyes, halfway through. Her grandmother, having carried the loss for decades, simply says "It's beautiful".

Despite being constantly surrounded by colleagues and staff from Haus of Gaga, Lady Gaga admits one day that in her big house, she's felt lonely. The award winning singer's solution? Calling her parents.

About to post a picture on Instagram, Florence Welch of Florence and The Machine asks the singer how she can possibly share anything on social media knowing that 18 million followers will see it.

Listen: Other Netflix documentaries to watch. Post continues after audio.

"Don't say that. Don't say that," she responds.

Yet she also says she finally feels "comfortable enough" to be herself.

"I never felt comfortable enough to sing or just be. Just sing or wear my hair back. I never felt pretty enough or smart enough or a good enough a musician," she says.

"I didn't feel good enough but I do now."

Ahead of an interview with a New York Times journalist, her manager cautions her to get into a more positive headspace.

"The mindset is fun, confident, how much you love music, how hard you work, I know you're going to have to go to another place because it's not where you are at with it," he tells her.

The focus on feelings, on Gaga herself has critics split. For some it's powerful viewing, for others it's wallowing in self reflection.

There's no doubt there's a disconnect between how confident the singer says she's feeling to how we see her behave on screen. It's important to keep in mind that this could very well be selective footage, as the point of the documentary is to show her in a different light.

But the fact that she says one thing and then acts the opposite for me is what makes the documentary strong. It makes her real and relatable. Like all of us, she's a work in progress.

lady-gaga-netflix-doc-inline
Image: Netflix

She's not really quite where she wants to be yet, still a little insecure, though undoubtedly more confident than she was two, five or ten years ago.

Fame, talent, illness and life in general has taken its toll on her, as it does on all of us.

But seeing the joy and the pain of the incredibly successful singer through such an intimate lens strips all preconceptions, opinions, judgements and expectations back.

We're left with a new character: Lady Gaga the human.

Five Foot Two is available to stream on Netflix now.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION