The Grammy-winning superstar received a standing ovation at the Toronto Film Festival after premiering the film.
ypically, the Toronto Film Festival is not known for being as glamorous as its peers in Cannes or Venice. But on Friday evening, all that changed when Lady Gaga sashayed back and forth in front of the Princess of Wales Theatre—striking poses in a pink bell-bottom suit and inspiring windblown bystanders in ill-fitting fleece to wonder what it might be like to be her.
Chris Moukarbel’s searingly raw, surprisingly emotional Netflix documentary Five Foot Two, which premiered inside the theater an hour later, answers that very question. The stunning film—which was shot between the 2015 recording of Lady Gaga’s album Joanne and her 2017 Super Bowl halftime show—transports its audience into the wild, whiplash existence of a six-time Grammy-winning singer/songwriter, actress, beloved avatar of self expression, and entrepreneur. She’s the kind of person who receives balloons from Bradley Cooper. (“Oh, Warner Bros. greenlit this film A Star Is Born,” Lady Gaga explains nonchalantly after someone asks about the mylar stars filling her foyer. “And I’m, uh, starring in it.”) The kind of person who has panic attacks about bumping into Beyoncé at inopportune times. (“I always feel like every time I see her and Jay Z, I have like nine joints hanging out of my mouth, and she is thinking, ‘You are not a lady. I don’t know how this is working for you.’”) The kind of person who suffers the same pangs of loneliness as any single thirtysomething, but while constantly swarmed by hordes of adoring fans.
The film, which debuts on Netflix September 22, is remarkable for several reasons—the first being that Lady Gaga, an artist who exercises exacting precision over her art and appearance, forfeited complete creative control to Mourkabel. She allowed herself to be filmed in the most vulnerable of conditions—doubled over in chronic pain; without hair, makeup, and at times, a shirt; painfully processing the way she transformed her public image based on the men in her life; emotionally overcome during a visit to her grandmother.
During another moment, sitting on a street curb, Lady Gaga gets real about the shade Madonna has thrown her way—calling the rival star “reductive.”
“The thing with me and Madonna is that I admired her always and still admire her, no matter what she might think of me,” says Gaga. “The only thing that really bothers me about her is [that] I’m Italian and from New York, so if I have a problem with somebody, I’m gonna tell you to your face.”
“She wouldn’t look me in the eye and tell me I’m reductive,” Gaga continues, explaining that Madonna logged her complaints to the media instead. In a different scene, while looking at a childhood photo of herself smiling before braces, she explains, “Good thing I got that gap fixed. . . otherwise things with Madonna would have been even weirder.”
While allowing cameras into the eye of this celebrity storm would be one thing, Lady Gaga elevates the film even more with her self-awareness—articulately and humorously commenting on the insanity of her world. In one scene, she observes that most celebrities stop evolving as humans once they become famous and incubated in fame’s ivory tower. She, however, is determined to keep growing by aging into “an old lady rock star.” She also describes the loneliness she feels, lamenting to producer Mark Ronson that it won’t be easy to find a male suitor confident enough to be comfortable joining her on her privileged perch.
Explaining the strangeness of her particular brand of solitude, Lady Gaga says, “I have people touching me and talking at me all day. And then I come home and am alone.” The disparity between her personal and professional life haunts her; “I sold 10 million [records] and lost Matt [Williams]. I sold 30 million and lost Lüc[Carl],” she says later, listing her former paramours. “I did a movie and lose Taylor[Kinney]. It’s like a turnover. This is the third time I’ve had my heart broken like this.”