Sundance 2020: Miss Americana

A still from Taylor Swift: Miss Americana by Lana Wilson, an official selection of the Documentary Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Miss Americana presents a very open look at singer-songwriter Taylor Swift with raw conversations and new insight into Swift as a person.

Taylor Swift is one of the most popular singers in the world.  It’s no surprise that a documentary starring Swift would premiere on opening night at Sundance.  However, audiences were allowed into see a side of Swift that we don’t usually see on social media or her TV appearances.  Here’s a musician who didn’t do any press for three years before collaborating with filmmaker Lana Wilson.

Much of the film focuses on the songwriting for the recent Lover album.  However, Miss Americana edits in home videos from when Taylor Swift was growing up.  You get to see her before she was a star and started making a name for herself in Nashville.  At the same time, we also see how Swift was forced down a psychological path that had nothing to do with her.  In some ways, Kanye West is responsible for the direction of Taylor Swift’s career.  What he did during the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009 was devastating.  It was so much that President Barack Obama, Jimmy Kimmel, Dr. Phil, and more would chime in with their thoughts.

Anyway, Swift would have thoughts of not belonging and this only made her strive to do better.  It isn’t even enough that there is so much pressure in releasing new music.  Even when Taylor wants to think about the present, people are telling her things that she’ll be doing in two years time.  A failure at the Grammys only results in wanting to make a better record.

“I can’t change what happens to me but I can control what I write,” Swift says.

Because we’re getting Taylor Swift at her most vulnerable, there’s discussion about how social media has effected her.

“It just gets so loud sometimes,” Swift says while getting emotional.

There’s the not wanting to look at photos of her for fear of being triggered.  This is also something that Swift is working to re-program in her brain.  On the beauty standards and living up to the expectations: “It’s all just fucking impossible!”

Perhaps the biggest part about watching Miss Americana is seeing Swift opening up about breaking her political silence.  When Swift made the decision to endorse Democratic senate candidate Phil Bredesen, it shook up the airwaves.  Wilson is there to capture the scene when Swift tells her family and team.  Make no mistake that there were people in Swift’s team that were not happy about it.  Obviously, you can’t help but think about a similar fallout to what happened when the Dixie Chicks made their comment about then-president George W. Bush.  It’s this rawness and vulnerability that makes you feel for Swift.

One line got the biggest applause of the night during the premiere: “I need to be on the right side of history. If he doesn’t win, at least I tried.”

Miss Americana sees Taylor Swift going where Taylor Swift hasn’t gone before…at least in the public eye.

DIRECTOR:  Lana Wilson

Miss Americana holds its world premiere during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the Documentary Premieres program. Netflix will release in select theaters and streaming on January 31, 2020. Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.