SP Review: 'Homecoming' showcases Beyoncé at her best

Arts and culture reporter Brandon King gives 'Homecoming' 8.5/10 stars

While it's not the biggest festival in the world, once a year, it feels like the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is just that. Between the lineups, style and social media buzz, Coachella has had a laundry list of talented artists appear on-stage over the last two decades.

When Beyoncé took the stage last year as the first black woman to headline the festival, the buzz was palpable. The singer's set served as a tribute to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which went over with acclaim from fans and critics alike.

So, it only felt right when the announcement came that a documentary depicting the process of putting the show together would be released on Netflix, with Beyoncé herself directing and writing the project.

The documentary, titled "Homecoming," might be the definitive visualization of Beyoncé's career and shows some of the most raw, emotional moments I've seen in a concert documentary. Top that off with a live performance that never slows down, and you've got an end product that feels both intimate and grand for both the artist and her fanbase.

Beyoncé was originally announced as one of the headliners for the 2017 Coachella lineup. However, she dropped out because concerns regarding her pregnancy and was instead scheduled to headline in 2018. The documentary depicts the year-long preparation process, both on and off the stage, as the grueling training and rehearsal regiments put a strain on the singer and her team. 

While the majority of the documentary uses footage from her set that many people saw during the 2018 Coachella performance, it's the new content that makes the film worth watching. 

Yes, we get the newly edited videos of the performances from both weekends, but what really makes "Homecoming" stand out is the sense of artistic guidance with which Beyoncé directs the film.

During the documentary, the audience gets to hear interviews from Beyoncé herself overlaid on concert footage, revealing the difficulties that came with working with an ever-expanding team while having a family at home whom she values more than anything. 

The key is that this never leans into melodrama. With the direction of this film in Beyoncé's hands, the pain and the tribulations have a sense of intimacy that the audience can empathize with, and the triumphs feel even more energetic because of that extra context.

Along with the dedication to her music, Beyoncé's dedication to black culture is prevalent as well. 

The choices to overlay the behind-the-scenes sequences with clips from black icons, including Maya Angelou and Nina Simone, are clearly intentional. They add another sense of importance to both the film and her 2018 performance. 

The result transcends the aesthetic of the film, offering a better representation of a demographic that, quite frankly, has never been wholeheartedly represented within this desert festival. 

The concert footage itself is reconstructed wonderfully. Beyoncé and her long-time collaborators, co-director Ed Burke and editor Alexander Hammer, make the hour-and-a-half long setlist feel remarkably cinematic. 

Everything from the drum lines to the background dancers is constantly in sync, and the surprise appearances of Beyoncé's husband Jay Z, sister Solange and even the reunion of Destiny's Child add an extra touch of excitement, especially for long-time fans of Queen B.

Really, the only key issue that comes with the documentary is its pacing. Even though I appreciate the artistic merit of the film, the over two-hour-long runtime feels like it can grind to a halt at certain points. This doesn't result in bad moments, but creates transitions that don't feel as smoothly constructed.

I really don't think that's supposed to matter, and for whatever technical issues I may have with the project, the end result is still pretty spectacular. 

What "Homecoming" delivers is peak levels of Beyoncé  — not just as a queen of her craft, but with raw emotion that makes that regality feel all the more earned. 

If you're a fan, you've probably already seen it. But I would say, even if you don't identify with the "Beyhive," it's still worth watching. It's a rousing portrait of dedication to the arts and the influences that drive those arts.

Overall, I give "Homecoming" 8.5/10 stars. 

Reach the reporter at brandon.D.King@asu.edu or follow @TheMovieKing45 on Twitter.

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