There’s little insight in this uneven mix of backstage and concert footage, but it remains a must-see for fans all the same by bringing an impressive live show to the home format.
Concert films are another genre that is basically immune to critical analysis, making my role here somewhat redundant. Ariana Grande: Excuse Me, I Love You, like Beyonce’s Homecoming before it, is explicitly aimed at fans of the artist, has no real desire or mandate to convert the casual viewer, and exists primarily as a snapshot of a particular moment in time which some fans will be new to and that others will be able to experience again. That moment, in this case, is the London leg of the “Sweetener” tour, during which the 27-year-old mega-star played a litany of her pre-Positions greatest hits, including “Side to Side”, “7 Rings”, “Dangerous Woman” and “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored”.
Netflix is a good platform for this kind of thing, which is probably why so many of them litter the thumbnails there. This 97-minute feature directed by Story Syndicate and Paul Dugdale splices the concert footage with some more intimate material, including rehearsals, videos from the road, and stuff captured either right before or midway through an on-stage performance that isn’t usually part of the experience for the crowd. The balance here favors the performance aspect much more than something like, say, Taylor Swift’s Miss Americana, giving it less insight into Ariana Grande’s life but the same kind of must-see appeal for die-hard fans.
That having been said there are still some nice, telling moments. Part of Ariana Grande’s appeal is her charm, so seeing moments like an enthusiastic response to news of Donald Trump’s impeachment or a star-struck reaction to being included in a Mariah Carey project only helps to reinforce that very likable image. More of this stuff would have probably made for a better documentary feature, but no matter. There’s enough behind-the-scenes material to provide the necessary context for the towering feats of production and creativity a concert of this scale requires — being beautiful and able to sing isn’t enough, even if it definitely helps.
Fans will be well-served by Ariana Grande: Excuse Me, I Love You. The concert footage is a pleasure to watch and there’s enough going on elsewhere to show off a human side of the superstar performer. I could have done with more of that stuff, but I’ll take what I’m given, especially in this cursed year and during this season.
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