REVIEW: Britney and Kevin is actually interesting

By: ROBERT LLOYD (Los Angeles Times)

HOLLYWOOD – I’m not sure what I expected from “Britney and Kevin: Chaotic,” the Spears-and-Federline reality show that debuted Tuesday night on the UPN (with “second window” broadcasts set for MTV, its roommate in the House of Viacom) — something like “The Osbournes” or “Newlyweds,” I guess, but not the odd hybrid of “Truth or Dare,” “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and “The Blair Witch Project” it presented.

I certainly didn’t expect to find it as interesting as I did, in the way that — while it is a packaged work of popular entertainment — it affords a relatively open view of the person behind the packaging, in the familiar bad visual grammar of home video.

The fact that Spears is extremely rich and world-famous makes that all the more interesting, of course.

Essentially assembled to relate, in six episodes, the courtship of its eponymous stars, from meeting to wedding, it is composed mainly of footage not originally intended for public consumption (and there is a whole doctoral thesis to be written about the marketing of footage not intended for public consumption), and filled out afterward with professionally lighted interviews and inserts, which get in the way as much as provide context. I would have preferred that the producers had had the courage of their verite, and let the subjects’ own hapless self-shot footage tell the tale — it would have been something new, anyway — but that was never going to happen.

It has been edited, of course, and given context, but at the same time, it is an open enough document that some will take it as proof of Spears’ awfulness, and others of her realness; as proof that she’s dumb, or not as dumb as all that. I’m sympathetic toward Spears, in part because the argument against her, which mixes up what she does with who she is to a remarkable and sometimes vicious degree, is so rife with snobbery and cultural prejudice — a combined Google search of the terms “Britney Spears” and “white trash” produces about 52,000 hits. But she does not have a reputation for behaving like a diva, and putting questions of talent aside, along with questions of product versus art and the absurdly generous way in which our world rewards pop stars, she’s earned what she has; at 23, she has already been working half her life.

That might account for the sense of isolation that surrounds her when we first meet her, on tour in 2004, surrounded by her family of employees but still feeling a void. “I think I’m just like anybody else; I long for love and companionship.” She’d like to find “somebody that’s cool. …I don’t care what they look like, I just want them to be …well, I do care a little bit what they look like.”

What she’s promoting here is a vision of her life. She’s trying to steal it back from the tabloids, to control the terms of the debate, to be the person that busts her own chops, if chops must be busted. Certainly it is meant to burnish her husband’s image, and to show him off as a real person with real feelings, not just the opportunistic Hollywood himbo a newspaper reader might take him for. It is a vanity project, but of that certain modern kind in which vanity translates as a willingness to show off the warts.

Credit — BritneySpy.Com

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