The Pitch: If you’ve been within a foot of the internet this past week, then you know that Netflix released Homecoming, a concert film that showcases Beyoncé’s legendary and record-breaking performance at Coachella last year. In addition to concert footage, it follows her as she endures the grueling process of preparing for the headlining spot, a year-long challenge that Bey undertook immediately after giving birth to twins.
The Awe: Seriously, could we have expected anything less? Beyoncé, the first black woman to ever headline Coachella, redefined the idea of what it means to perform at a festival. With the help of a deluge of talent from dancers, background singers, baton twirling, and instrumentalists, Beyoncé paid tribute to black culture and HBCUs throughout her two-hour show. Naturally, the footage is flawless performance-wise.
There’s an underlying theme that radiates throughout the work: Beyoncé is a diligent and ardently dedicated craftswoman, and she demands that from everyone around her. This is most exemplified in the opening concert section of the film, where she performs one of her earlier smash records: “Crazy in Love”. When the beat drops and all the dancers turn around — essentially a millisecond of time — there’s a flash of color. Beyoncé and everyone on the stage’s jackets change from yellow to pink. It takes a second for your eyes to adjust, and you may have to pause it. (Is that some insane light trick that alters the color to a viewer’s eyes?) Then the reality sets in. Nope, that’s just two different cuts from weekend one and two of Coachella. That means that not just Beyoncé, but every single performer on stage, every single person involved in the show, was so precise in their movements that in footage from two entirely separate weekends, everyone was in the literal same spot on stage — to the nanometer.
In most cases, an exclusive film like this might humanize the protagonist further; in Homecoming, it elevates Bey as one of the few performers capable of such a feat. On the day she gave birth, she was 218 pounds. A few weeks later, she was rehearsing for the show of her lifetime. To get back to her pre-baby weight, Beyoncé confesses that she gave up meat, fish, bread, carbs, sugar, and dairy. We watch as she falls to the ground in pain after a workout and sweats endlessly during dance rehearsals. But then we see her up-hill climb. She fits back into an old costume. She hits the steps in a dance combination. And then, Coachella. Sure, there are moments of weakness, but conclusively, Bey has an untouchable level of greatness.
The Catch: What stands out in Homecoming is, of course, the subject — but not the film itself. Frankly, it’d be almost impossible to record Beyoncé’s performance and not make it entertaining. It’s hard to separate the film from the earth-shattering performance itself. At times, it even seems inconceivable. There’s no doubt that Beyoncé and her abilities are nothing but a testament to what the human body is capable of. However, if we do make that distinction and look exclusively at the film, the amazement dwindles. For example, throughout the background footage, there is a constant filter that makes the images foggy and jolted. It recalls a certain sense of nostalgia and Woodstock-era vibes oftentimes associated with music festivals, but it also tends to be frustrating and contrary to Beyoncé’s perfection. Of course, this doesn’t ruin the experience, but over the course of a few hours, it does prove to be annoying.
And while the Beyoncé fandom is extensive, it’s not all encompassing. The truth is if going to a Beyoncé concert doesn’t interest you (which is a separate issue) and you’re not entranced by the power of her music, then you won’t particularly enjoy this concert documentary.
The Verdict: Let’s face it: Only Beyoncé could have the world this excited about a year-old performance and a live version of a three-year-old album. If anything, Homecoming solidified her reign as the hardest-working musician in the industry — and her fans’ loyalty. There’s no question that Beyoncé’s expectation-razing show will most likely never be outdone. But, at the end of the day, Homecoming is still just a glorified and extended concert video.
Where’s It Playing?: Netflix as of April 17