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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated is a documentary about the Disney child star-turned-pop superstar. Early on, Lovato says that the last time she'd been interviewed, she was high on cocaine. Later, viewers see visuals of cocaine getting cut into lines with a razor blade. Lovato speaks frankly about the intense bullying she suffered as a tween; classmates created a "suicide petition" lobbying her to kill herself. Other topics include mental health, eating disorders, and how it was all magnified by the pressures of child stardom. The "it's lonely at the top" theme is heightened as Lovato discusses the hard work and dedication required to succeed in entertainment. "F--k" is bleeped repeatedly; other words include "bitch," and "hell." Lovato says she enjoys casual sex, and there's talk of how she wants to "close the deal" on a date. While much of the film is devoted to showing how Lovato stays successful after her struggles, it also raises questions of how these struggles are different for people without access to support and resources like rehab programs, personal trainers, chefs, managers, and even therapy sessions. Some of the "real talk" about Lovato's problems is overshadowed by her pop-star life of clubbing, dating celebrities, and so on. Lovato is shown working in the studio and performing, but there's not much talk of actual music. At the end, there's a brief mention of her fans and literally one second showing her doing charity work.
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What's the story?
DEMI LOVATO: SIMPLY COMPLICATED covers the rise and fall and rise of the beloved pop singer. It shows the dual forces that seem to have been with her from the very beginning: While a natural-born singer with tremendous talent first seen on Barney & Friends, she was also depressed at a young age and suffered from body issues. As her career blew up as a tween Disney star on As the Bell Rings and Camp Rock, Lovato was also mercilessly bullied by other students at her school and began experimenting with drugs and alcohol. At age 19 Lovato was in her first year of sobriety and trying to work through her inner demons that were exacerbated by the intense pressures of childhood stardom. Now at 25 with a new album out, Lovato is achieving even higher levels of success, even as she battles the daily struggles of addiction, eating disorders, and mental illness, and is shown to be, for the first time in her life, in charge of who she is and how she chooses to live and perform.
Is it any good?
This revealing YouTube documentary is sure to be popular with fans of the pop star, although music isn't the focus. Instead, Simply Complicated is about Demi Lovato the lifestyle, persona, and former child star turned mid-20s recovering addict who managed to overcome her demons (substance addiction, eating disorders, mental health issues, bullying, a manipulative biological father) to live and perform in the way she wants to live and perform.
Fans of Lovato will love her openness about her Disney-star past, her former boyfriends, and her present life as an outspoken pop star unafraid to discuss and reveal her sexuality. In other words: The little girl who once danced with Barney is now the woman who shows up at an LA nightclub's "emo nite" in black lipstick and a Misfits T-shirt and leads the crowd in singing along with Paramore. Cynics will openly wonder if this whole presentation is a brazen rebranding scheme on par with that of Miley Cyrus, another well-known formerly wholesome child star whose current trademark is provocatively sticking out her tongue and posting pictures of "style icons" like legendary '70s punk rocker Richard Hell on her Instagram. Ultimately, the documentary veers back and forth between what Lovato chooses to reveal (she was also Executive Producer in this, which means she could say when "too real" was too real) and the type of self-centered entitlement the rest of us have come to expect from celebrities. It's worth mentioning that, literally, one second is devoted to showing Lovato engaged in charity work for the less fortunate -- the only second of the movie not devoted to her life and career.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about music documentaries. What are the ways in which Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated is an attempt to show the life and times of Demi Lovato, and what are the ways in which it feels like a promotional video advertising the newest phase in her evolving career?
How does Lovato compare to pop singers from prior generations?
What are the takeaways from the documentary concerning Lovato's messages on drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, bullying, dating, sex, and the highs and lows of fame?
How "real" do you feel this documentary is? Demi Lovato produced it; do you think it would have been more "real" if she hadn't been involved in creating it?
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