SXSW FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! When celebrities bear all, we are given voyeuristic access to their life. Demi Lovato’s overdose in 2018 hit the news as all horrid celebrity situations do. However, the singer was no stranger to addiction and the depths it takes an individual. Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil is a four-part series, available as a YouTube Original. The documentary, directed by Michael D. Ratner, recounts the life that led to Lovato’s near-fatal overdose and its aftermath.
The opening sees Lovato trying to set the record straight with footage showing the behind-the-scenes of what appears to be a stressful United States tour. As the unfinished film winds its way through Lovato’s life, a new one emerges with interviews with her managers, friends, sister, mother, a former assistant, and herself. The framework of Lovato’s world and the forces pushing her to work continually are clearly understood to have caused her near-death experience.
As a young woman with an incredible voice and on-stage presence, Lovato was losing her emotional stability. The pressure of appearance, diet, image, performance, and being a role model took its toll. A few of Lovato’s back- and on-stage moments echo Amy Weinstein’s life, where addiction led to her demise. However, no matter her deterioration, Lovato’s fans found her incredible, as they should because she is extremely talented, which is apparent throughout the film.
“…recounts the life that led to Lovato’s near-fatal overdose and its aftermath.”
However, what is most fascinating about Lovato’s addiction was not only the type of drug overdose she survived but how she hid it so well. She survived a heroin overdose with a side of fentanyl, oxycodone, molly, marijuana, and coke — of course, there was alcohol. Even though she crossed the line, Lovato’s embracing life at full throttle is not quite kicked. As we learn more about Lovato, we discover she had been diagnosed as bipolar at a young age and suffered sexual trauma. Yet, with so much stacked against her, she continued to be a successful artist. Unfortunately, she is unable to come clean.
Ratner succeeds in telling the musical artist’s story with grace and empathy for his subject. He does not judge Lovato and lets her tell her story in her words. This makes Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil feel very intimate, which is one way it distinguishes itself from a VH1 Behind The Music episode. The other element that makes this so engaging is Lovato herself. Obviously, she can sing, but her candid way of speaking puts the audience at ease despite the intense subject matter at hand. While it is several hours long, time flies by as viewers become more and more wrapped in Lovato’s life.
Even at the film’s close, she cannot abstain and talks about alcohol and marijuana in moderation, which her counselor addresses. Elton John, who makes several appearances throughout, remarks that this plan will never work, as he has personal experience with such things. Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil may be hard for some to watch, but it tells a compelling story with a genuinely engaging subject at the center.
Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil screened at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival.
"…feels very intimate..."