A big theme of this documentary, and really Lady Gaga in general, is her unending pursuit to be herself. Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Germanotta, speaks about this early on in the film while surrounded by friends in her rustic Malibu kitchen. The singer claims that she’s more aware of who she is now and less concerned with the opinions of others or the trials and tribulations that come from interacting with men. It could be the fact that she hit 30, or that she’s collected 60 years worth of experience in that time, but the performer doesn’t hesitate from saying this is a new, refined her we’re looking at.
Well, as the rest of the documentary shows us, that isn’t necessarily the case. I’m not saying that Gaga didn’t mature or achieve new levels of insight throughout the last few years, but she is caught in a heightened, amplified version of the classic human dilemma of actually being yourself, vs. being the self that you think is yourself, but really just the self you want others to see. It’s an intriguing duality, made even more fascinating when we watch scenes of the performer interact with her family in quiet living vs. being adorned in the most regal, opulent clothing before performing at the Super Bowl halftime show. The difference between hanging out at a quiet family religious ceremony vs. taking a Snapchat or Instagram vid for 18 million followers. We watch, wondering if there is real self to Lady Gaga, if Lady Gaga and Germanotta are one and the same, the Yin to another’s Yang, or the smoke to one’s fire.
Whoever the real Gaga or Germanotta may be, a consistent quality is her ability to wear her heart on her sleeve. She takes pride in being an Italian, even talking about her experiences with Madonna, saying she admires her but clearly pissed about being trashed by the legendary pop star in the media. She doesn’t hide tears or bite her tongue when she’s feeling blue, and for close friends and family, they’re always greeted with a hearty hug and a smile. Gaga/Germanotta may want us to think she’s something else, a mature grownup, but this Gaga, the one who greets friends with smiles and warmth, regardless of her own inner struggles and demons, seems to be the truest her.
The film doesn’t reveal much more about her life than what we already knew, one doesn’t need to watch this to get the full scoop on the Gaga story. But it does accurately depict what life is like for the pop singer, the famous faces, the tight cigars, the recurring body pains and deep emotional wounds, the constant touring, promoting, greeting, interviewing, wash rinse repeating. It’s not necessarily a life that you’d want to live, but as Gaga: Five Foot Two shows, she has managed so far.