A mix of behind-the-scenes buffoonery and live performances makes this a perfect Christmas treat for Arianators everywhere
Why anyone still bothers with the concert film after Beyoncé’s Homecoming perfected the form is anyone’s guess. Still, that hasn't stopped Netflix from bringing another entry to the genre – this time documenting pop sensation Ariana Grande during a London show from her 2019 Sweetener World Tour. Excuse Me, I Love You works as both timely distraction (from Grande’s solid but unremarkable sixth studio album Positions) and as a time-capsule (for an era where sold-out stadium gigs were actually possible).
Concert movies have the power, and often the mandate, to make accessible the rush of a live performance while also interweaving behind-the-scenes snippets of a star’s creative process and personal life. Here, Grande certainly has the space to exercise her goofier tendencies. These segments – which cover everything from the “soul-shaking” call to work with idol Mariah Carey to an anecdote about her perts decorating her room with excrement as she video calls Kristen Chenoweth – are the highlights. Playful descriptions under name cards – “need we say more?” for her mother, “best human” for another – reflect Grande’s relaxed attitude towards viewing this as a “serious” documentary.
On the other hand, the filmed performances suffer from a deficiency of style. There are too many cuts and not enough variation in camerawork. Director Paul Dugdale – who has helmed similar projects for Taylor Swift and Shawn Mendes – brings competence but lacks artistic flair. One handy tool in his seemingly single compartment toolbelt is the use of slow-motion to punctuate the minutiae in Grande’s movements, be it an air-kiss to the audience or a flick of her iconic high ponytail. But it's a technique that quickly grows tired from overuse. It doesn't help that the in-stadium lighting translates poorly to the screen, or that performances are drenched in a single colour, reducing depth and making the subtle differences in the costumes and silhouettes all that harder to discern.
Of course, the biggest fans will be able to look past any technical limitations. Grande begins with a modern version of her famous VMAs “God Is a Woman” rendition before bouncing around her then-five album-long discography. Popular tracks like “7 Rings” and “Side to Side” are entertaining, but minimalism ultimately wins the day as the pop princess performs “Breathin'” without assistance from her dancers, simply belting the notes and interacting with the audience. Grande chuckling through her line deliveries in response to her crazed audiences is a delightful, endearing addition.
It is difficult to make the case for Excuse Me, I Love You as a serious artistic effort. Ariana Grande basically did a concert and a camera crew showed up to film it. While this will inhibit the movie from drawing a broader audience, Arianators won’t be disappointed (although those who have had Grande’s K Bye for Now live album on repeat will find much of the concert audibly familiar). Despite some failings, this is a concert film that succeeds in its most important objective: it makes you want to sing and dance along to Grande’s angelic voice and biggest bops.
Ariana Grande: Excuse Me, I Love You is now streaming on Netflix.Where to watch