If you’re familiar with Lady Gaga, you know this: she’s wildly entertaining, over-the-top dramatic, and most of all—a superstar. Even superstars have their weak moments and the lowest of lows. You wouldn’t guess this before taking a glimpse at Gaga: Five Foot Two, the Netflix documentary about the star.
The film follows Lady Gaga in three crucial moments of her life: the creation of her single Joanne, preparation for her Super Bowl performance, and her struggle with chronic body pain. Of course, the documentary sheds light on smaller issues that are ever present, like her break-up from then-fiancé Taylor Kinney, her beef with Madonna, and her fight against the seemingly male-dominated music industry.
Apparently, the only area that the pop queen finds total solitude in is within her family as seen in her single Joanne. She names the single after her late aunt Joanne, who died of lupus at 19 years old. Upon completing the song, she and her father take a visit to her grandmother’s apartment, just to play the title track for her. “We’ll just play it,” she says, “and if we get upset, we don’t have to talk about it.”
They sit at the table, listening to its every verse and its every ode to Joanne within its lyrics: “Take my hand, stay Joanne/ Heaven’s not ready for you/ Every part of my aching heart/ Needs you more than the angels do.” Her grandmother detaches herself from her daze and replies, “That’s a beautiful piece. Really.”
It’s important here to consider Lady Gaga’s step away from her avant-garde ambitions. Some may say her time away from fame humbled her, or perhaps it drew her closer to what remains important to her.
We get more tender moments like these, but the best is when she visits her local Wal-Mart to check their stock in her album. The manager of the music department and the employee behind the counter don’t recognize her at first, but once they do word of her appearance spreads like wildfire across the store. “Can I take a picture with you?” asks one of the managers. “I want to show my wife.”
These are her happiest moments of the year. Her not so happiest lay in her struggle with extreme body pain, known as Fibromyalgia—an illness associated with anxiety and depression. She complains about body spasms and difficulty breathing because of it.
Through the pain, there’s a certain cycle that becomes very evident. Her work causes her anxiety, which leads to her lack of performance, which turns back to her anxiety, which torments her body all over again. The heart-wrenching scenes are the ones that portray this the deepest. It’s a Lady Gaga her fans are not accustomed to. The one who is afraid to cry in case her face gets puffy.
Before we see any of this though, Lady Gaga glides up the stairs in the film and we get to gaze at balloons that are hung up on the banister. “Warner Brothers greenlit a movie that Bradley Cooper’s directing, and Bradley wanted me to be in it. A Star is Born. And, you know, I’m going to star in the movie.” she says with a smile, slipping into the next room with a salad in hand and her dog at her side.