‘Life Is but a Dream,” Beyonce Knowles’s HBO documentary about herself, is billed as a revealing look inside the superstar’s world circa 2011-12, as she shifts business gears, reinjects her music with an updated R&B feel and, as you surely know, gives birth to a daughter. The project is mostly just a fleeting glimpse, which is ultimately a disappointment, given the world’s desperate and ongoing interest in all things Beyonce.
Early in the film, Beyonce relays that special feeling of celebrity futility when it comes to guarding her private life. Like the ultra-famous who came before her, she wishes there were not a market for the news and photographs of things she’d rather not share.
But I don’t know how anyone could make sense of “Life Is but a Dream” without having followed Beyonce’s every move and every high note as reported by the multimedia infotainment sphere. You must come to this program knowing the basic trajectory of her career thus far; you must already know that she relieved her father of his managerial duties; you must know she has a husband who, it seems, is also a famous performer. You must know all about the envelope-pushing album we see her recording in the studio. It would help greatly if you could discern the importance of a tirelessly rehearsed awards-show performance (that, if you’re a fan, you will have already seen when it aired) and be able to tell how it is different from all the Beyonce performances that came before it.