Film Review: ‘Shania Twain: Not Just a Girl’: It Don’t Impress Me Much

Mark Jackson
I appreciate every kind of music. And while I’m not a diehard country fan, at the height of her career, I was definitely a diehard Shania Twain, the babe, fan. I didn’t love that lyric of hers, you know the one: “So you look like Brad Pitt … that don’t impress me much.” I thought, “Really? How tremendously stuck-up!” But then, you know, I’d see Shania in a Cowboys football jersey and think, “Hmmm! Where can I find a framed poster of this?”

My main takeaway from “Not Just a Girl,” a documentary on Twain, was the footage of her, long before all her later beauteousness, as a little girl with big buck teeth, singing like an angel in one of the many bars her mom used to drag her to, to help pay the bills. And then slightly later, as a teen—still with the Bugs Bunny chompers. Adorable doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Promotional poster for "Shania Twain: Not Just a Girl." (Netflix)
Promotional poster for "Shania Twain: Not Just a Girl." (Netflix)

Can’t Recommend Much Else

In this day and age, the film industry knows very well how to tell and package a cracking good musician story, whether in documentary or biopic form, and so there’s really no excuse for “Not Just a Girl” to be such a lukewarm and by-the-numbers documentary. This is one of the most high-profile, premier female artists in the history of modern music we’re talking about. This is the chart-topping Canadian country music singer-songwriter who inspired future superstars like Taylor Swift, Avril Lavigne, and any young girl today thumbing her way toward Nashville with a guitar, a sleeping bag, and a big dream.

It’s basically just an origins-to-the-present, straight-through narrative, with some run-of-the-mill interviews, video snippets, still photography, and archival footage that skims the surface. Twain presides overall as host, speaking from various couches in her Swiss mansion, with it all looking overly photoshopped like people on social media who’ve become addicted to filters and lost touch with reality.

If there’s a musician who could be designated as having single-handedly greased the tracks from country to pop music, and “shifted culture,” according to Orville Peck, it’s Shania, in her 45-year-long career; and so a more realistic, grittier treatment would have been welcome.

Because after all, here’s a singer who grew up dirt poor, was basically shoved onstage at the age of 8, had both parents die in a car crash when she was 22, parented her younger siblings, got signed in the early 1990s, and due to unashamed, raw ambition, managed to flatten the fence between country and pop, elevate to superstardom across genres—and then became the highest selling female artist of her time.

Then, she caught a virulent case of Lyme’s disease from a tick bite, which destroyed her voice. Finally, her husband and producer, Mutt Lange, the love of her life, ran off with a younger woman. And then, and then—she makes a comeback. This is not a life to gloss over!

The Odyssey: Man Takes a Boat Ride Home—The End

“Not Just a Girl” is a bunch of the facts; it takes some doing to make such a potent life look so plastic and cardboard-like. The 56-year-old Twain doesn’t really invite us into her history, and the Hallmark card-like, hagiographic feel of the film is ironic, considering Twain was known for her music videos that broke the pop-and-rock monopoly over the MTV-age medium.

It touches on some potentially fascinating talking points, like her creative partnership with her producer ex-husband, and how her feminist lyrics were couched in a traditionally country music-friendly celebration of femininity, rather than a defiant, emasculating one (although that Brad Pitt line was borderline). But I don’t care if she sings “The future is female” as long as she sings it in the Cowboys jersey. I’m kidding of course. Sort of.

“Not Just a Girl,” unlike Shania herself, doesn’t appear to be backed by much ambition. It’s similar to another such documentary recently released: “Sheryl,” about the life and times of equally impressive powerhouse rock star Sheryl Crow. The documentary on Sheryl is superior. There’s so much wasted potential in Shania’s that I have to say, unfortunately, it don’t impress me much. I am glad I watched it; I always enjoy music documentaries, but this one left me feeling shortchanged.
“Not Just a Girl” premiered on Netflix in both the United States and UK on July 26.
‘Shania Twain: Not Just a Girl’ Documentary Director: Joss Crowley Running Time: 1 hour, 28 minutes Release Date: July 26, 2022 Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Mark Jackson is the chief film critic for The Epoch Times. In addition to the world’s number-one storytelling vehicle—film, he enjoys martial arts, weightlifting, Harley-Davidsons, vision questing, rock-climbing, qigong, oil painting, and human rights activism. Mark earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Williams College, followed by a classical theater training, and has 20 years’ experience as a New York professional actor, working in theater, commercials, and television daytime dramas. He recently narrated the Epoch Times audiobook “How the Specter of Communism is Ruling Our World,” which is available on iTunes and Audible. Mr. Jackson is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic.
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