As someone who has loved Lady Gaga since 2008, I will admit that this woman has failed to deliver multiple times. I’ve lived through the messy Artpop era, survived seven years waiting for the long-promised Telephone sequel, and been a personal victim of her concert tardiness. Oftentimes, these mistakes lead to frustrations with her fans. Recently, for example, she canceled her highly anticipated show in Rock in Rio followed by the cancellation/postponing of her European shows for Joanne World Tour. Many Little Monsters can’t help being frustrated; her fans have flown from different countries and camped outside her venues just to see their Mother Monster live. To learn someone you love and idolize will be a no-show is heartbreaking – especially considering the money spent. The cancellations are odd, considering how successful her tour is (she’s played stadiums for the first time in her career and sold out all shows so far) and how spectacular 2017 has been for her. Many of us can’t help but ask… why, Gaga?
Gaga: Five Foot Two gives us a glimpse of the wizard behind the curtain.
Director Chris Moukarbel follows Gaga for about a year, capturing key moments of the Joanne era – like the album’s conception and recording, playing the 'Scáthach' on American Horror Story: Roanoke, and the planning and execution of her critically acclaimed Super Bowl LI Halftime Show. We are introduced to her ever-loving family and learn about the significance of the name Joanne; years before she was born, her aunt Joanne died of lupus, which caused immense sorrow that was carried by her family, until it was passed down to her through the name. We meet Gaga’s entourage, like the mastermind behind the album, Mark Ronson, and the late Sonja Durham, to whom the film and the song Grigio Girls is dedicated. The audience is immediately brought into Gaga’s everyday life as a performer, artist, fiancee, actress, and woman.
One scene particularly strikes me. Gaga, wearing a simple white shirt with semi-heavy makeup, walks outside her New York City apartment to her car. As soon as she steps out, she is swarmed by a mob of paparazzi and fans, all demanding pictures be taken or albums be signed. Her own security personnel is no match for the horde; as she walks toward her car amidst the screams and flashing lights, clips of Gaga in the exact same scenario throughout the years begin to play in between the “real-time” clips. The montage shows the birth of the famous “YAAAAAAAAS!” and how many times Gaga is called “mommy” in the streets. Throughout the chaos, Gaga remains conscious and composed, interacting with her fans despite the push and pull between them and her security detail. When she steps in the car, the scene cuts to utter silence.
I get it now.
As a fan, I’ve only been exposed to what she’s allowed me to see. Moukarbel delivers Gaga’s perspective to her fans in a way that is almost suffocatingly necessary. Throughout the movie, she talks about her most controversial moments (such as her feud with Madonna and breakup with fiance Taylor Kinney) and shares a big piece of her life: Gaga suffers from chronic pain caused by fibromyalgia. There are many scenes of her in routine therapy, getting massages, and even injections for the pain at work. At one point, Gaga receives consultation from a doctor about her chronic pain before her makeup artist warns her that a scheduled event is approaching. Gaga reluctantly agrees to get her makeup done as she goes through the procedure with her doctor.
As a big fan, I almost feel guilty for the amount of pressure and doubt I’ve helped instill in this woman. A few months ago, I saw her on the Joanne World Tour in San Francisco (her first stadium show), where she was over an hour late. I couldn’t help being frustrated in the fog with the masses; especially when she cut a setlist I was excited for the most (consisting of Bloody Mary, Dancin’ in Circles, and Paparazzi – three of my favorite songs). What if, at that moment, Gaga was getting needles stuck in her to suppress the pain? Millions of admirers around the world may have experienced disappointment with some of Gaga’s shortcomings, but all things considered, this woman definitely works hard to please her followers, despite the pain, the sorrow, and the trauma.
Five Foot Two brings Gaga’s untold story to the table. The most striking aspect of this movie is simple: this is not Lady Gaga we are meeting, but Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. We meet the beloved pop star stripped of her meat dress and disco stick, as a thirty-year-old woman who has endured pain in two fronts: physically, through trauma from breaking her hip and fibromyalgia, and emotionally – by lifting the weight of her aunt’s death from her family’s shoulder to her own. The documentary lends insight to Stefani’s life, perfectly conveying her emotions. Five Foot Two presents Stefani both at her peak and at her lowest point, all to remind us of one thing: she is human, after all.