Written by: Matt Patti | March 22nd, 2021
Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil (Michael D. Ratner, 2021) 3½ out of 4 stars.
In 2018, a documentary about actress and singer Demi Lovato was being filmed featuring behind-the-scenes interviews, concert footage, and your typical pop-star doc elements. Unfortunately, the documentary was never finished because on July 24, 2018, Lovato was found lying motionless in her bed, a victim of a horrific, almost fatal drug overdose. The documentary was cancelled and Lovato’s life was turned upside down after this near-death experience. Now, almost three years later, Lovato courageously tells all in a new documentary with a different focus. Using some of the same footage from that unreleased 2018 film as well as many new interviews and personal testimony, Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil takes a fascinating deep dive into Lovato’s personal history and the events leading up to, surrounding and following that fateful day back in July 2018.
This may be one of the most intimate documentaries I’ve ever seen. The level of personal information revealed by both Lovato and those close to her is shocking and insightful. The film explores everything from her childhood and early days at Disney to her most recent pop hits. Hidden behind what most people see as a successful, fun career are many different issues that Lovato has struggled with throughout her life, many relating to the stress of being a famous female artist. The movie touches on the pressures in the music industry to look a certain way and Lovato’s resulting personal battles with body image and eating disorders. However, the main focus is, of course, on the horrors of drug addiction. Lovato was sober for a while in her early adult years but was increasingly unhappy and decided she wanted to have fun again, but went overboard. The film makes the viewer question complete sobriety and if it is really effective or just sets people up for failure, an intriguing question that I had not really pondered much before.
Director Michael D. Ratner spares no expense at getting the best interviews possible. Lovato’s pieces are all compelling, for sure, but the other people in the film are equally as interesting. Most of her close family are interviewed, including her two sisters and her mother, who provide insight that only they can. There are very thought-provoking interviews with the medical staff that treated her after her overdose as well as psychologists that weigh in on Lovato’s behavior. Surprisingly to this viewer, the doc also features a good collection of other celebrities that give their take on the situation, including those we might not know have a connection to the star. The film also features old interviews with Lovato from her early days of fame which seem completely normal, but she explains what she was feeling at the time and the things she was dealing with that no one knew about, which is fascinating to uncover for the audience.
Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil tackles many problems that its titular subject has faced throughout her life and dives deep into many of them. However, with so many issues to tackle, it does seem to meander a bit, touching only lightly on some issues and glossing over others. However, other than that small grievance, the film is almost everything that a biographical documentary should be: insightful, informational, personal, riveting, and featuring interviews with a diverse array of people. The one thing I enjoyed most about this film is that it never really tells you what to think. With so many documentaries out there that push an agenda, Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil never asks you to commit and believe one singular idea. It captures all angles of Lovato’s situation, including interviews with many people that are quite upset with her actions and her lifestyle, and also features many different opinions on sobriety, drug use, celebrity lifestyles, etc. This allows the viewer to then make up their own mind about these issues after receiving many different testimonials. In the end, this documentary does almost everything well and Demi Lovato is very brave for being this transparent and honest about everything that has happened in her life, and I believe it will be an inspiration for those who struggle with similar issues, and open other’s eyes who don’t know much about the topic.
[Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil premieres on YouTube, as a four-part docuseries, on March 23, 2021.]