Demi Lovato’s new documentary, “Simply Complicated,” has raked in more than 6 million views since its YouTube release Oct. 17.
The documentary is candid and honest, and Lovato has an aura of vulnerability, a quality rarely captured in pop-documentaries. Within the first minute, she reveals that she was on cocaine during an interview during her 2012 documentary, “Stay Strong.” Lovato is articulate and thoughtful about how she wants to tell her truth, which makes the film entertaining and compelling. Unfortunately, it wasn’t groundbreaking.
It failed because the purpose of the documentary never shifted to something greater, something other than Lovato. From the moment the camera starts rolling, the audience is compelled to listen to her struggles growing up in the entertainment industry, including a laundry list of mental and emotional health issues. The end shows a few clips of her singing, with some endearing revelations about facing her demons.
The film fades to black. The end. There is no mention of other people struggling with these issues, and, more importantly, no mention of accessible resources.
It is rare to find a documentary about a pop star whose purpose is anything other than to glorify the celebrity and advertise an upcoming album. In this case, it’s Lovato’s newest album, “Tell Me You Love Me,” and along with a painfully disjointed series of product placements. There was so much opportunity for the film to bring up widespread issues, namely, the uncertainties of fame, social media and anxiety and depression in millennials. This documentary failed those people.
However, Lovato is worthy of praise for her transparency. One moment that stuck out was when she described a time when she punched a backup dancer for speaking up about Lovato’s drug use.
“I was not easy to work with,” Lovato said. “I was using while I had a sober companion, and I went through about 20 different sober companions. I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t feel guilty. It’s embarrassing to look back at the person that I was.”
The documentary showed a side of Lovato that was less celebrity and more human, which is an accomplishment on behalf of her and the filmmakers. But the pop documentary genre has a lot of work to do before it can be admired as anything but a marketing scheme.