'Shania Twain: Not Just a Girl' Is Just Another Music Doc Directed by Joss Crowley

Starring Shania Twain, Avril Lavigne, Lionel Richie, Orville Peck, Diplo, Kelsea Ballerini
'Shania Twain: Not Just a Girl' Is Just Another Music Doc Directed by Joss Crowley
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Shania Twain has led a fascinating life full of triumphant highs and some harrowing lows — but fans looking for the nitty gritty will want to look somewhere other than Not Just a Girl. Netflix's new film falls victim to all the clichés of music docs, rarely digging deep enough (and omitting some major biographical details entirely), while still being carried by the charisma and catalogue of its subject.

Not Just a Girl features extensive participation from Twain herself, who tells much of the story herself through interviews that sometimes feel more like prepared statements than off-the-cuff reflections. Additional talking heads feature some of Twain's close associates, as well as famous admirers like Avril Lavigne, Lionel Richie, Orville Peck, and Diplo for some fucking reason. Lazily, gaps in the story are filled in with title cards.

Director Joss Crowley seems to enamoured with Twain's success, devoting much of the film's brief hour-and-a-half runtime to the singer's golden era from 1995's The Woman in Me through 1997's Come On Over and 2002's Up! The quality and quantity of her hits is truly remarkable, and Not Just a Girl frequently takes the easy route by simply reaffirming what viewers already know: that her songs are amazing. Fans who think "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" is great will get the satisfaction of being told that they're correct. Much of the archival footage comes from music videos and TV appearances, so there's not even much in the way of vault-opening exclusives.

The best parts of Not Just a Girl are when Twain shows vulnerability rather than strength. She alludes to the violence of her upbringing, and discusses the pressures of becoming the family breadwinner when her parents died in a car crash in 1987 (her younger siblings are then omitted from the rest of the narrative, however). In the later chapters of the film, Twain explains how Lyme disease put a halt to her career. Coinciding with her divorce from husband/collaborator Mutt Lange, it's a poignant chapter that's given a disingenuously happy spin when Twain discusses into her triumphant return to the music industry — including clips of the awful-sounding music she's currently working on, notably the limp new single "Not Just a Girl."

Strangely, Twain doesn't fully open the door to her current life. There's no mention at all of Frédéric Thiébaud, her husband of 11 years, and she makes only a passing reference to Switzerland, where she has lived for many years. (The shots of her driving through winding Swiss roads are gorgeous, so a proper tour would have been welcome.)

Not Just a Girl is similar in every way to year's by-the-numbers Sheryl Crow film, which similarly succumbed to the worst trappings of the officially sanctioned music doc genre: reverent flattery, legacy building, and a frustrating tendency to skim over the most interesting parts of the story. (For an example of a pop doc done right, check out Billie Eilish's excellent fly-on-the-wall film The World's a Little Blurry.) It's an entertaining but decidedly inessential watch. (Netflix)