Miss Americana First Reviews: "Captivating" Taylor Swift Documentary Is Tailor-Made For Fans, But Leaves A Few Blank Spaces

Haters gonna hate, and they won't stop after seeing this, but first word out of Sundance says Netflix's Tay-Tay doc is an insightful if calculated look at the pop star's political awakening.

by | January 24, 2020 | Comments

Sundance kicked things off Thursday night with one of the biggest stars on the planet, as Taylor Swift and filmmaker Lana Wilson brought their documentary Miss Americana to Park City to the delight of fans and also critics – mostly. Reports of cheers, tears, and giggles from the crowd at the Eccles Theater were followed by some largely positive reviews for the feature, which arrives on Netflix in just a week. Although understood to be carefully constructed for the subject’s approval – this is Tay Tay after all – the film is also commended for showing a more candid Swift than we’re used to, though that may not be saying much.

Here’s what critics are saying about Miss Americana:

Firstly, is it a good movie?

“Like the 2017 Netflix documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two, it’s a lively and revealing once-over-lightly portrait.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“A captivating watch…refreshing.” Matt Goldberg, Collider

“An intimate and eye-opening documentary.” – Sean P. Means, Salt Lake Tribune

“More compelling than its straightforward structure would suggest.” – Dan Mecca, The Film Stage

Miss Americana is undoubtedly a pro-Tay narrative, but it’s a good one.” – Anna Menta, Decider

“Not a game-changer when it comes to documentary filmmaking, but it is emotionally effective, surprisingly entertaining, and incredibly inspiring.” – Scott Menzel, We Live Entertainment

So it’s not just for the fans?

“The perfect balance…for the fans, as well as for someone who doesn’t really know much about Swift as a person and will possibly walk away with a new level of respect and appreciation for her.” – Scott Menzel, We Live Entertainment

“Whether haters will be willing to hear the new Taylor out remains to be seen, but if they do, they would certainly find someone worth listening to.” – Anna Menta, Decider

“There’s nothing here to make new Swift fans or change the opinions of her haters, but that’s kind of the point of the documentary: to disregard the audience in favor of examining the relationship between a female celebrity and her followers.” – Matt Goldberg, Collider

“Those indifferent or opposed to Swift likely won’t find much in Miss Americana to change their minds.” – Angie Han, Mashable

“It’s unlikely that Miss Americana will convince naysayers of Swift’s artistry — as with most music documentaries, the film preaches to the converted.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

Miss Americana is far too coy a documentary to fully satisfy anybody.” – Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

Miss Americana

(Photo by Courtesy of Sundance Institute.)

Does it reveal anything new about Swift?

“You won’t learn about her deepest secrets…but it does have an intimacy that is rare for Swift.”  – Steve Pond, The Wrap

“Bravest of all…she discusses her past struggle with an eating disorder, a condition triggered by the constant scrutiny of her own image.” – Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter

“I was genuinely shocked by how much information was revealed, given the 85-minute runtime.” – Scott Menzel, We Live Entertainment

“Those hoping for juicy gossip will also be disappointed.” – Angie Han, Mashable

“Lana Wilson’s portrait feels more like the singer’s attempt at brand repositioning than a heartfelt, revealing chronicle.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

“Truth be told, her song ‘Fifteen’ is far more revealing than anything in this purported behind-the-scenes glimpse.” – Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

What’s the one thing everyone will be talking about? 

“The biggest part about watching Miss Americana is seeing Swift opening up about breaking her political silence.” – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

“[The] more interesting half of the film is dedicated to Swift’s political awakening as an increasingly liberal activist.” – Anna Menta, Decider

Miss Americana becomes electric in its final act as Swift finally reaches a political awakening.” – Matt Goldberg, Collider

“The heart of Miss Americana is Taylor Swift telling us what she stands for on gay rights and women’s rights, and what she’s learned about the fate of being a woman in the public eye.” – Steve Pond, The Wrap

“Just a teensy weensy bit irritatingly self-congratulatory…you can’t help sensing that this new, socially conscious, politically savvy Taylor is also a construct, albeit one that is entirely sincere.” – Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter

Taylor Swift: Miss Americana

(Photo by © Netflix)

Does the film feel authentic?

“While most of this authenticity reads as manufactured and a bit focus-grouped, it’s hard not to like this pop star.” – Dan Mecca, The Film Stage

“What matters is that the things we do see ring true. In Miss Americana, the vision Taylor Swift presents of herself is just chancy and sincere enough to draw us in.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“Watching her defy her father and her closest advisors through tears, it’s hard to feel that Swift did so for any reason other than believing it was the right thing to do. Here is the proof that so many have been asking for that her feminism is genuine.” – Anna Menta, Decider

“Wilson is there to capture the scene when Swift tells her family and team…it’s this rawness and vulnerability that makes you feel for Swift.” – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

“There were several moments in the film where I found myself becoming oddly emotional, almost to the point of tears.” – Scott Menzel, We Live Entertainment

Miss Americana is Swift’s way of having her cake and eating it too. She gets to control her narrative in a favorable documentary that upholds her persona as an introspective artist but swats down anyone who interrogates that persona.” – Matt Goldberg, Collider

“If you think the moon landing was staged, just wait till you see Miss Americana, the new documentary about pop star Taylor Swift.” – Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

Miss Americana is a little too timid and constructed — it rarely gives viewers the impression that we’re seeing the ‘real’ Taylor Swift…there isn’t much spontaneity or surprise.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

OK, but it has the fun candid moments we’re hoping for, right?

“Her difficult public life is intercut with joyous scenes like that of her fruitful creative life.” – Mary Sollosi, Entertainment Weekly

“Wilson leaves room for some quirky bits, like Swift doting on her three cats…but even then there’s a message: ‘I want to wear pink and let you know I know about politics.’” – Sean P. Means, Salt Lake Tribune

“Sorry, but staring at a person as they tweet isn’t exciting, even when that person is Taylor Swift.” – Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

Is it still a music doc?

“Music buffs will be especially drawn to the attention paid here to Swift’s working practice…the collaborative process by which she writes songs.” – Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter

“Wilson also spends extensive time with Swift in the studio, giving fans an intimate look at her songwriting process as they’ve never seen before.” – Anna Menta, Decider

“Watching Swift and her producers take scribble off her cell phone and turn it into hit music is impressive…the excitement on screen when they crack a lyric feels timeless.” – Dan Mecca, The Film Stage

“What’s surprising about Miss Americana is how little of the documentary is about her music…which is fine” – Matt Goldberg, Collider

Final thoughts?

“For a pop star whose reputation has been up and down and down some more, it seems Miss Americana has her poised for an upswing.” – Anna Menta, Decider

“If it engages a few more young people to become politically active, then we can consider it a success.” – Dan Mecca, The Film Stage

Miss Americana carries too much of a self-congratulatory tone to give Swift’s evolution the resonance it deserves.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

Miss Americana opens everywhere on January 31, 2020. 


Miss Americana (2020)

Adjusted Score: 94.608%
Critics Consensus: Miss Americana provides an engaging if somewhat deliberately opaque backstage look at a pop star turned cultural phenomenon.
Synopsis: Miss Americana is a raw and emotionally revealing look at one of the most iconic artists of our time during... [More]
Starring: Taylor Swift
Directed By: Lana Wilson

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

Discovery Channel 2016 Comedy asian-american Schedule natural history CBS biography Nat Geo social media GLAAD golden globes transformers HBO Certified Fresh Superheroes superhero VICE medical drama Election travel 99% TCA 2017 Mudbound FOX japanese rt archives nbcuniversal 72 Emmy Awards Opinion chucky Reality Competition casting Pop composers Hallmark Christmas movies YA franchise twilight Superheroe Spike laika versus cults 007 Vudu Epix Musical Anna Paquin ghosts slashers See It Skip It political drama DirecTV doctor who SDCC Mindy Kaling Biopics sports breaking bad LGBT crime thriller NYCC batman science fiction christmas movies psycho Women's History Month IFC 2019 universal monsters fresh criterion Britbox SXSW spider-man New York Comic Con streaming worst Podcast Holidays comedies TLC adventure Set visit HBO Max 2020 spinoff serial killer DGA Black History Month Toys Box Office Western television kids independent Trophy Talk Emmys MSNBC crime Kids & Family DC Universe Television Academy BBC stoner Spectrum Originals OWN Drama The Witch classics cinemax foreign south america Pop TV Cannes GIFs TCA Winter 2020 Nominations vampires dogs comics Marathons dceu Netflix Christmas movies dramedy Horror theme song A&E award winner RT21 Sneak Peek APB Marvel Television quibi CNN what to watch rotten movies we love Film parents Lifetime Christmas movies romantic comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Universal comic screenings NBC Alien black australia video on demand police drama A24 The Purge justice league indie YouTube Red a nightmare on elm street 2018 blaxploitation Lucasfilm Chilling Adventures of Sabrina latino USA Network The Walking Dead Tubi Marvel TCA Awards true crime comic books 4/20 Sundance TV strong female leads child's play zero dark thirty book Cartoon Network American Society of Cinematographers Super Bowl Amazon Prime Song of Ice and Fire HBO Go canceled Paramount Network ITV Awards Pirates Calendar Premiere Dates Heroines cancelled TV shows BAFTA movie binge toy story PaleyFest jamie lee curtis Nickelodeon Video Games worst movies Marvel Studios tv talk WGN Comic Book Elton John Awards Tour finale Emmy Nominations 2015 historical drama reviews Walt Disney Pictures Freeform Bravo Showtime elevated horror Funimation cancelled crime drama Shudder Crackle Food Network Film Festival The Academy zombies hollywood FXX period drama children's TV witnail BBC One LGBTQ Comics on TV Logo blockbuster renewed TV shows Character Guide Captain marvel Spring TV festivals screen actors guild werewolf Disney Plus Martial Arts deadpool Fox Searchlight Quiz emmy awards Star Wars animated docudrama spy thriller cars films Disney+ Disney Plus ABC dc Sci-Fi name the review Paramount 71st Emmy Awards Sundance Now Rocketman revenge hispanic discovery cartoon Fox News Creative Arts Emmys disaster fast and furious Dark Horse Comics supernatural unscripted Winter TV cancelled television Writers Guild of America Amazon Studios Trailer Valentine's Day TV Land Avengers scorecard VH1 Country halloween Sony Pictures robots Amazon Prime Video SundanceTV Disney french movies Oscars cancelled TV series CMT anthology Turner based on movie CW Seed nature Cosplay Pixar obituary Comedy Central Pet Sematary Black Mirror Rocky USA FX on Hulu mockumentary Apple TV Plus video technology cops Chernobyl OneApp Polls and Games Mystery TruTV Travel Channel Trivia thriller The CW talk show Arrowverse Family The Arrangement Mary Poppins Returns sag awards Lifetime nfl GoT reboot harry potter sequels Fall TV Infographic YouTube Premium Apple rotten Shondaland BET news Musicals green book Photos First Reviews best Endgame Tumblr Classic Film facebook stop motion miniseries MCU Summer halloween tv Disney Channel TBS Academy Awards Winners anime football Netflix Mary Tyler Moore Columbia Pictures El Rey Animation 21st Century Fox Brie Larson ratings singing competition game show crossover Ovation BET Awards Fantasy spanish Stephen King Teen indiana jones space Hear Us Out Music Ellie Kemper directors AMC Christmas dark die hard Peacock Best and Worst Esquire 24 frames 20th Century Fox adaptation Baby Yoda diversity venice Action TV renewals Binge Guide IFC Films RT History Tomatazos DC streaming service Watching Series spanish language Pride Month scary movies First Look dragons E3 Star Trek italian festival cooking sitcom game of thrones sequel richard e. Grant Apple TV+ series Thanksgiving VOD Extras Crunchyroll PlayStation war Rock Sundance Adult Swim National Geographic Warner Bros. politics Reality E! critics CBS All Access Holiday documentaries YouTube San Diego Comic-Con Red Carpet ID hist aliens mission: impossible Grammys free movies Year in Review Hallmark romance Amazon TCM Tarantino Turner Classic Movies Syfy 45 comiccon teaser satire Ghostbusters MTV TNT spain zombie Acorn TV Television Critics Association concert X-Men psychological thriller TCA WarnerMedia Masterpiece 2017 Disney streaming service james bond DC Comics Starz ESPN toronto President joker History ABC Family all-time stand-up comedy mutant FX boxoffice cats Mary poppins remakes Hulu archives PBS Countdown documentary Interview boxing canceled TV shows Rom-Com TV TIFF Lionsgate BBC America