Framing Britney Spears (3 stars)

Framing Britney Spears

Already notorious documentary about Britney Spears is packed with detail and despair but low on hard evidence about her current status

History is littered with stories of young women being thrust onto a pedestal before finding themselves pushed off it with haste and violence. Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Diana Spencer and Amy Winehouse were all hounded by the same forces who raised them up until their spirits and bodies were broken through a campaign of psychological torture. As Framing Britney Spears shows, that kind of behaviour reached its most recent apotheosis in the scandalous treatment meted out to the talented singer who gained fame before she was barely out of braces, advancing to the status of global superstar and number one target for the early 21st century paparazzi. The documentary is likely to be essential viewing in the Markle/Windsor household.

Where Framing Britney Spears succeeds is in laying out the chronology of the abuse (there's no other word for it) levelled at her ever since she entered the public eye. From being asked on air to be talent-show host Ed McMahon's girlfriend (she was 10 years old at the time) to continually facing press questions about her body and sex life, Britney has tried to laugh it all off with politeness and a smile. You'll struggle to find any footage of her storming out of an interview, but she eventually snapped when long-lens intrusion simply got too much and, with a recently shaven head, took her umbrella to a photographer's car (a snapper who feigned concern for her wellbeing while pointing a camera straight at her).

Where it doesn't quite hit the mark is in the sections regarding her conservatorship, in which her father James took control of her personal and financial affairs in 2008 when she was at her lowest ebb. And yet, here we are 13 years later with a court only last week ruling that it should continue. Is Britney Spears, a successful 39-year-old woman being held against her will through a legal edict normally reserved for the young and fragile? The documentary is unable to fully answer that question but simply adds to the whispers, gossip, hearsay and dark theories about the 'hidden messages' Britney transmitted through Instagram. Still, it's difficult not to harbour suspicions about her father's intentions, given how absent he appeared to be during her upbringing.

None of the many individuals interviewed here who have been around Britney at various points of her life are able to categorically answer that crucial question. We are left with a whole lot of noise and bluster, though mercifully not the infamous video of her highly emotional superfan Chris Crocker pleading for everyone to leave her alone. Almost inevitably, Crocker himself was accused of using the star to further his own public persona. When it comes to Britney Spears, there seems to be no one acting fully in her interest. You can only hope that an updated documentary entitled Saving Britney Spears is somewhere down the line.

Sky Documentaries and NOW TV, Tuesday 16 February, 9pm.

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