Beyoncé, as she sings in her 2013 track of the same name, has always seemed “flawless,” especially when she’s on stage. But early into “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé,” she sings a ballad with a competing title, “Flaws and All,” which here reads as something of a sign of what she’s trying to do with this project, which she also directs. 

In “Renaissance,” Beyoncé wants to show the effort that goes into her existence — both in arenas and outside of them. She wants to show the machinery of the tour mechanism, explaining that the most expensive part of the set was all the steel to support the stage design and highlighting the crew building the massive screens behind her. She wants to highlight the complicated act of mothering as a superstar, and she wants to demonstrate how her body, which has always seemed to support her in extraordinary ways, is feeling the effects of aging. After all, she’s “fucking 42,” as she says to one of her gathered crowds. 

At the same time as she’s doing all of this, Beyoncé is also giving audiences in theaters around the country a full accounting of her show, which toured the world earlier this year, and itself is a spectacular extension of the chrome aesthetics and celebratory mood of her latest album, a ferocious homage to house music and ballroom culture. 

This is all to say that even for the nearly three hour running time, sometimes it feels like “Renaissance,” the film, is juggling too much. At first, I thought that it was going to be a full nuts and bolts accounting of how a tour like this gets made on a technical level, showing us the behind the scenes of every single costume change and set piece, but we only get brief glimpses of those kinds of negotiations. Maybe the general audience isn’t as interested in that as a geek like me, but I found those mechanics entrancing, as well as Beyoncé’s stated desire to highlight the crew and their maneuvers. 

Likewise, I found myself wishing the movie had lingered longer on Beyoncé’s relationship with her daughter Blue Ivy, as Blue decides she wants to take the stage alongside her mother, who is at first resistant to the idea. What we get is a fascinating look into the pressures of being a showbusiness child itching to get into the spotlight and then finding out it’s harder than it looks, especially after she gets a glance at social media criticism, to Beyoncé’s dismay. 

And then there are so many other tantalizing threads Beyoncé touches on. These include: her aging and rehabilitation post-knee surgery; her pregnant trumpet player Crystal Torres; the ballroom stars on her team; and her tribute to her late “Uncle Jonny” — John Edward Rittenhouse — so memorably shouted out in her song “HEATED.” Still, all of this is just extra, more like bonus features, for the main event: Beyoncé actually performing on stage, which is as spectacular as ever.

WARSAW, POLAND - JUNE 28: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY)(EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Beyoncé performs onstage during the “RENAISSANCE WORLD TOUR” at PGE Narodowy on June 28, 2023 in Warsaw, Poland. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood)
Beyoncé performs onstage during the “RENAISSANCE WORLD TOUR” at PGE Narodowy on June 28, 2023 in Warsaw, PolandWireImage for Parkwood

Unlike the other concert event of the season, Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour” movie, Beyoncé wants to show the spread of the tour. “Renaissance” does not pretend to be just an accounting of one stop in its entirety. The film’s editors are maybe the production’s most unsung heroes, cutting seamlessly between different stops so it seems as if Beyoncé and her dancers are magically switching back and forth between outfits during a single track. It’s a way to highlight the incredible looks she wears from designers ranging from Telfar to Mugler to Pucci to Loewe. (Hey, that too could have been a movie on its own: Designing the outfits for “Renaissance.” I’d watch!) 

Throughout these scenes, Beyoncé consciously creates characters out of fans in the audience, members of her loyal Beyhive, and their euphoria starts to transfer through the screen. You are moved by her power, and by how they are moved by her power. And it’s impossible, even if you are just a passing fan, not to be awed by the wealth of Beyoncé’s talent. The miraculous extent of her vocal range is on full display, as is her absolute command of the way she moves. Even surrounded by all her fabulous dancers, your eyes are constantly drawn to her. 

The constant cutting between different dates shows how well-oiled the performance is, which is why it’s almost a delight when something goes wrong. When the power goes out just as she’s supposed to begin “ALIEN SUPERSTAR,” we see her making the decision to do a quick change as a little surprise when she pops back up. 

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - JUNE 17: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Beyoncé performs onstage during the “RENAISSANCE WORLD TOUR” at the Johan Cruyff Arena on June 17, 2023, in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood)
Beyoncé performs onstage during the “RENAISSANCE WORLD TOUR” at the Johan Cruyff Arena on June 17, 2023, in Amsterdam, NetherlandsWireImage for Parkwood

The movie — and maybe Beyoncé’s life — is a constant negotiation between giving viewers that perfect show they crave and these moments of spontaneity. “Renaissance” as a whole sometimes struggles to find that balance, as it moves through all of its different and equally intriguing ideas. But maybe that’s the point. Being Beyoncé is not as easy as Beyoncé makes it look. And in the end it doesn’t really matter. She’s still Beyoncé and that’s incredible. 

Grade: B+

“Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” is now in theaters.

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