Britney vs Spears Review: A ruthless, explosive yet necessary take on Britney Spears' 'conservatorship' mayhem

Updated on Sep 29, 2021 10:59 AM IST  |  103.4K
Britney vs Spears dropped on September 28
Erin Lee Carr and Jenny Eliscu decode Britney Spears' conservatorship in Britney vs Spears.

Britney vs Spears

Britney vs Spears Director: Erin Lee Carr

"What the f**k?"; former Rolling Stone contributing editor Jenny Eliscu remarked while going through once redacted "confidential" court documents procured regarding Britney Spears' 13-year-long hellish conservatorship battle. After watching Britney vs Spears in its entirety, I concur. With the array of documentaries on the iconic pop star's troubled life, the Erin Lee Carr directorial has a more objective take in a pro-Britney aspect with a clear villain; Jamie Spears. There is very minimal mention of Britney's mom Lynee Spears or her younger sister Jamie Lynn Spears' alleged role in the giant scheme of things.

In an investigative journalism shoot format, we see Erin and Jenny, who formed a close bond with Britney while working on her cover stories for Rolling Stone, decipher two years worth of evidence, including on record interviews (zoom interviews, confidential documents, etc.) with key characters associated with the questionable case. Seeing the deciphering from Erin and Jenny's mindset is equal parts heartbreaking and equal parts astonishing as they decode not just the apparent hell Britney Spears went through for 13 years, but ask the right questions regarding said case.

Amongst the questions tackled throughout the one hour and thirty minutes duration is about Britney's mental state and how she was able to perform at sold-out concerts for months if her condition was as bad as stated by her "medical team," including mentions of "dementia." When you look at the figures, which were so outlandishly placed in the documentary as an eye-opener reveals how much money Jamie makes while Britney is subdued with only USD 8000 in her pocket as a monthly allowance. Even fiancé Jason Trawick and at on point, co-conservator claims to have pointed to feeling Britney's conservatorship was "too constrictive." Britney allegedly needed to ask and then wait for a few days for a response before spending a couple of hundred dollars on books for her own kids, drive a golf cart or even go to a hamburger joint. Her own hard-earned money! Conservatorship attorney Tony Chicotel even points out how Britney's case is rare because she's amongst the conservatees, who has a job.

Britney vs Spears could not have been a more apt title as people associated with the pop star, most of who the Spears family weren't fans of, come forward with their side of the story. This includes Britney's former longtime manager Sam Lutfi, her ex-boyfriend Adnan Ghalib and former background dancer Tania Baron. At times, I did feel that the interviews were more of "defend themselves" rather than talk about the atrocities they claim Britney faced at the hands of her conservator.

In particular, Britney's once close friend Andrew Gallery, who worked with her for MTV's For the Record, talks in detail about the hidden years in Britney's life, under conservatorship, and how a letter as a rebuttable to ex-husband Kevin Federline's explosive 2008 People cover about their divorce would never see the light of the day. It's damning to not empathise with Britney after hearing about such ridiculous yet claimed to be true encounters.

Other key players like Britney's close ally Felicia Culotta, Kevin Federline's divorce attorney Mark Vincent Kaplan and geriatric psychiatrist Dr. James Edward Spar, who neither confirms nor denies his potential role in evaluating Spears, all played the diplomatic card and refrained from divulging more than what they felt necessary. "Britney loved performing, hands down, still to this second, loves performing. I think that's probably as much as I can say about that. I don't want to fight with them. It's not worth it to me. I’m sorry," Felicia states, referencing the Spears family. Another major revelation comes from Jenny, who tried to secretly assist Britney in getting herself a new lawyer but as history states, that too, didn't pan out.

In Britney vs Spears, they don't try to overdramatise by romanticising Britney's downfall. This was clearly seen when they deferred from showing Britney's infamous "breakdown" images, which ultimately led to the conservatorship in the first place. Rather Erin and Jenny let their carefully crafted evidence do all the talking for them. While Jamie was the main villain in the scenario, a lot of defence towards the Spears family (especially from Mark in Jamie's defence!) found its way in the documentary as well but all that pales in comparison to the court documents and numbers provided to the viewers. Even Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group founder and CEO Lou Taylor sent out a legal notice to Erin regarding any mention of her or her organisation's name in the documentary, which Erin claims "was not unusual for people involved in this story." This was documented in Britney vs Spears.

Moreover, the deliberate focus on the body language of the people on record also spoke volumes. On the day of Britney's conservatorship court hearing this year, when Spears was finally given a voice to speak out her truth, Andrew states how he wished he could apologise to Britney for not being there for her enough, while entering the court to attend the session himself. Andrew also narrates a time when Britney and 30 other people went off to a barren space, while shooting For the Record, and let Spears drive around without a care in the world. The question he asks is why is it that Britney doing a menial thing like driving feel like attaining freedom? Through Britney vs Spears, we're given an introspective eye into the way paparazzi also played a key tool in the dismantling of a global icon. When you listen back to Britney's music, it was a cry for help, and when you see how she was hounded even at the brink of death, she was nothing but a muse for the cameras, deeming her the "crazy" while they outlandishly chased her car, even getting a righteous kick out of it.

ALSO READ: Britney Spears' father Jamie Spears agrees to step down as her conservator

But what elevates the objectivity in Britney vs Spears is how they position Britney as a powerful woman, if only she's let off the shackles. Britney knows she's great and owns it as she stated during her court hearing that it's abysmal how she's earning for so many people only to be told she's good enough. However, she and the entire world knows she's Britney F*****G Spears! It's also notable how fans' #FreeBritney movement had such an impact in a short span and Erin, herself, was a Britney fangirl at a young age who wanted to make an honest movie on Britney. "The movie was going to be about her artistry and her media portrayal, and can someone say wow to those dance moves? But the story was also about power and control, full of conspiracy and rumours. No one would talk. Until they did," Yes, they did, indeed!

Nevertheless, I still can't help myself but question as a viewer; We now have four back-to-back documentaries on Britney Spears' life, while Britney hasn't been an official part of any of them. Given how paparazzi played a role in "the pop star’s trajectory from girl next door to a woman trapped by fame and family and her own legal status," isn't the mere fact that her life is being used as a cash cow getting us right back to where it all started? It's not just Britney vs Spears or #FreeBritney but Britney vs the world, at this point.