New from Jeff York on The Establishing Shot: “SELENA GOMEZ: MY MIND & ME” SERVES AS A CAUTIONARY TALE OF FAME

So many attention-worthy films come out during awards season that it’s hard to keep up with all of the terrific content premiering. One such case is the Apple TV+ documentary SELENA GOMEZ: MY MIND & ME. It’s not only a “warts and all” presentation of the ups and downs of singer/actress Selena Gomez over the past five years, but it serves as a cautionary tale about fame as well. If you’re a fan of the pop star, you’ll come away admiring her more. If you’re only vaguely familiar with Gomez, you will discover a smart and savvy woman, troubled by her celebrity and ambitions, yet wholly admirable in not only how she confronts her demons head-on but in her willingness to share all of it with us. It’s easily one of this year’s best documentaries, and one of the most truthful portraits of celebrity ever put on film.

Written by Alex Keshishian and Paul Marchand, and directed by Keshishian as well, their documentary gives you an up close and personal POV of Gomez’s struggles during a 2015 concert tour and its aftermath, including her hospital stays where she was treated for Lupus, as well as her bipolar disorder. It’s a fly-on-the-wall vantage point that is often hard to watch, especially as the pressures of performance, fandom, and publicity truly get to Gomez. You watch her visibly shrink and deflate often and it’s heartbreaking.  In only her mid-20s when most of this was filmed, the doc illustrates just how even a seasoned veteran like her, a star from childhood, struggles to deal with the 24/7 pressures and constant scrutiny of being a superstar. Granted, Gomez chose the celebrity life, but it’s no surprise that its toll is ginormous.

That may not be all that revelatory as everyone knows that the higher one gets up the ladder, the more your butt is exposed, but what makes this documentary so compelling is in its showing of how Gomez handles the problems. Her narration, often written as journal entries, poetry, or spur-of-the-moment thoughts, all clue us into the many complex emotions she felt and how she started to address the problems. Acknowledging you have a problem is always the first step and Gomez shows over and over again here that she doesn’t shy away from the harsh truths of her life.

Gomez knows what she signed up for, but like many artists, she is sensitive to a fault, and many things from the biggest to the smallest can get under her skin. She takes things very personally but is often the first one to say she is sorry for some mistake or misdeed. What makes Gomez so admirable throughout the rollercoaster ride that is tour life is how she doesn’t shirk from addressing her foibles as well as those of others. She’s not only an artist after the best show possible but a fun person wanting everyone to be enjoying their time together.

Gomez is honest with everyone, most crucially herself. She’s learned not to hide her feelings away and the doc shows her reaching out to her family, friends, and crew to share. One of the pleasures of watching this film is seeing Gomez be frank about what she’s going through with almost everyone, not mincing, not sugar-coating matters. Her candor is refreshing, but she’s no bully. Gomez is less diva and more mensch, her genuine decency rising to the surface on all occasions.

At times what Gomez goes through to serve her career feels like as absurd as a kid playing dress-up with overt makeup and outlandish costumes. But hearing Gomez’s voice, there’s often a hardness to it, belying her youthfulness, and showing how seriously she takes her craft. The now 30-year-old star has been through a lot to stay on top – depression, family trauma, a kidney transplant, and the drama that was dating Justin Bieber – but she’s survived and thrived. Her journey informs her music, as we see her writing clear-eyed and powerful lyrics reflecting what she has learned. And it’s all turned her into a very mature and savvy actress. One only has to watch her work in varied pieces like the film SPRING BREAKERS or the streaming series ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING to see how astute a performer she is.

The holiday season may not be the time that most audiences will want to watch such a frank view of fame, but SELENA GOMEZ: MY MIND & ME not only gives its audience a unique glimpse into a celebrated life but indeed, gives the viewer cause for celebration in watching this incredible young woman face down her demons and vow to keep up the fight.

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