Ariana Grande Celebrates Trump Impeachment in Netflix’s ‘excuse me, i love you’—But It’s No ‘Miss Americana’
The pop superstar’s new Netflix documentary is a fun concert film—but doesn’t provide much insight into the singer herself.
Ariana Grande has a lot of best friends. At least, that seemed to be the main takeaway from Netflix’s excuse me, i love you, the concert movie about the popstar, in which too many people to count are identified with title cards anointing them “best friend” first, whatever their profession is second. This is about as deep as the film gets into Grande’s personal life, branded as a documentary but rarely probing beneath its subject’s glittery surface.
In fact—and I swear I’m not making this up—by the 55-minute mark, the longest non-performance segment features the “thank u, next” singer telling a story about her dogs getting diarrhea. Though there is an amusing twist ending to the story (Grande had been FaceTiming with Broadway star Kristen Chenoweth at the time), a pet poop anecdote hardly qualifies as juicy or vulnerable behind-the-scenes dish.
Directed by Paul Dugdale, excuse me, i love you documents a few select moments from the 27-year-old’s 2019 Sweetener tour. The concert portions, filmed in London, are interspersed with footage of Grande giggling over an iPhone screen with different combinations of best friends and chatting with makeup artists over pre-show glam sessions.
About two-thirds of the way through, there is a very half-hearted attempt to broach the subject of politics. Grande shrieks with joy and falls to the ground upon receiving the news that Donald Trump was impeached. Unfortunately, this scene mainly has the effect of making it seem like she doesn’t know what impeachment means. It is followed by an accidentally hilarious title card that says “too bad he wasn’t convicted—thank god biden won anyway!”
The performance segments, though, are infectiously entertaining. In addition to a laundry list of best friends, Grande has stunning vocals. She flexes them right out of the gate, perfectly hitting a jaw-dropping whistle note in “God is a woman” within the first five minutes of the film. At one point, she explains that she learned to sing by watching Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, and Whitney Houston, and it shows in her gratuitous-but-never-boring tendency toward showy runs. Basically, Grande’s oeuvre is full of near-perfect pop songs and it saves the whole movie. It’s impossible not to dance along as Ari winks and swishes her hair extensions to “Side To Side.”
The emotional climax of the film comes when, ahead of the final show of the tour, Grande chokes up during a speech to her crew of backup dancers and producers. “I know it’s been hard, and I know it’s been a lot, physically and mentally,” she tells them, “but like, this show for sure, for sure, for sure saved my life this year.”
The only problem is we don’t know what it saved her from.
There are vague allusions throughout to the singer’s struggles, including an appearance from notorious music mogul Scooter Braun who gushes with pride about how far she’s come. Grande has undoubtedly weathered more than her fair share of tragedy in recent years, from the horrific bombing at her 2017 Manchester Arena concert to the fatal overdose of her ex-boyfriend, rapper Mac Miller, in 2018. But we never get to hear in the singer’s own words about what she has overcome to become the triumphant star we see belting high notes and dancing in impossibly tall thigh-high boots for thousands of weeping admirers.
The most emotionally evocative aspect of the film actually had little to do with Grande, but rather the way it captured the euphoric, distinctly pre-pandemic experience of being at a concert. The giddy anticipation when suddenly everything goes black, followed by the excitement of seeing Grande’s silhouette appear on stage like a mirage, topped with her signature gravity-defying ponytail.
By the end, I could almost feel my ears ringing from two hours of being blasted with throbbing bass, and I could summon the delirium of stumbling through the confetti-haze of an arena once the lights finally go up again, shoulder to shoulder with throngs of (maskless!) people.
Excuse me, i love you is decidedly not a documentary, but if you are a Grande fan, it’s a perfectly entertaining concert film. If you’re not into her particular brand of ‘90s-inspired diva pop, stream the platform’s other, superior popstar portrait doc, the Taylor Swift-led Miss Americana, instead.