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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce commemorates the 22-time Grammy-winning Queen Bey's headlining performance at the 2018 Coachella Music Festival -- which marked her return to stage after a rough pregnancy with twins. The theme is uplifting: It's designed to boost feminists, black women, black men, and anyone who feels marginalized. Beyonce says she personally hired each of her dancers -- who represent all shapes and sizes -- and musicians to create a show that supports the work of historically black colleges and universities. Jay-Z, Destiny's Child, and Beyonce's sister Solange all make appearances. Expect frank lyrics that don't shy away from sexual references or mature language, including "f--k," "s--t," "ass," "bitch," and the "N"-word.
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What's the story?
HOMECOMING: A FILM BY BEYONCE records the memorable performance she gave in 2018 with her cast of hundreds, as the first black woman to headline the 20-year-old Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival held annually in the California desert. This edited version of scores of songs is intercut with footage from months of rehearsals with dancers, musicians, and tech crew. Also included are interview snippets in which Beyonce describes a tough pregnancy and delivery, and her process of "coming home" to the stage after a year off. As co-director, writer, executive producer, and musical director of the film, she sets an uplifting tone with quotes presumably from commencement speeches given at historically-black college and universities, and a recording of the late poet Maya Angelou advising the current generation to "tell the truth, first to yourself." That message carries through along with the reminder to move beyond the terrible institutional wrongs perpetrated on black people and women in America, brought home nicely when Beyonce's eldest daughter Blue Ivy sings the "black national anthem," 'Lift Every Voice and Sing." Guest performers include her husband rapper Jay-Z, her sister Solange, and her former Destiny's Child partners, Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland. Songs include "Flawless," "Love on Top," "Single Ladies" and "Feeling Myself," which has suggestive lyrics and dancing to match. Several of Beyonce's songs, especially those from her album Lemonade, make reference to difficulties in her marriage resulting from her husband's infidelity ("Hold Up," for example). That she publicly made "lemonade" out of the "lemons" in her life is part of her vast appeal to an adoring audience whose lives may be less than perfect.
Is it any good?
Music fans will be overjoyed by this inspiring documentary. Although early moments in Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce feel a bit chaotic, self-important, even grandiose, Beyonce's singular talent as an interpreter of what's universally important in life and her contagious charm as a performer quickly unveil a heartfelt and at times moving tribute to everyone who needs just a little nudge toward greatness. Her performance is energetic and all the more admirable in light of information she offers about her difficult pregnancy and delivery only a short time before work on the show began.
The uplifting quotes and messages she inserts throughout the film underscore her admiration and support for historically-black colleges and universities (she didn't go to college but her dad did). In childhood she attended battles of college marching bands and her love of that tradition infuses the joyous show. Tradition means a lot to her, which explains the way so many ideas are mashed up here (marching bands, coats of arms, S&M outfits) but they all point to the mix of messages composed of equal parts anger, pride, and determination that ultimately make sense and feel cohesive and true. Although some performances recorded in rehearsals seem more engaging than those given in the actual performance, the show settles down quickly, setting up an emotionally-packed finale in which Beyonce invites the audience to sing with her about love.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the importance of Beyonce's message about inclusiveness and empowerment. Does the word "feminist" mean to you the definition presented here: someone who believes in "the political, social, and economic equality of women"?
Why do you think she places so much value on historically-black colleges and universities? What do you know about them?
What messages do you take from Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce about responsibility, self knowledge, and personal pride?
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