Warning: This review contains sensitive topics, including drug abuse, sexual assault, and eating disorders.
Demi Lovato’s new documentary, Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil, has fans seeing the former Disney star in a whole new light as she opens up about her past in a way she hasn’t before in the four-part series. It opened exclusively to attendants of SXSW Online 2021, but it will be available on YouTube on March 23.
Lovato opens up about her struggle with addiction and her life-threatening overdose in 2018 on July 24. Everything in between with bluntness will have viewers feeling shocked and concerned for the singer. The singer goes into great detail about what truly happened before and after overdosing on heroin laced with fentanyl in the doc. Michael D. Ratner directed the documentary and produced it through his company OBB Media. Not only does Lovato talk about her addiction she also talks about her alleged sexual assault at 15 and her eating disorder. There is one particular theme that just jumps right out to me. How do you influence your life decisions when you have an illness that is allowing your inner demons to kill you?
The beginning starts with fun and light. Viewers can get a backstage look into how the singer gets ready for a performance, those quick changes, sleeping on the jet, but throughout, Lovato knows how to fake a smile and pretend everything is okay. Lovato, family and friends, and business partners reflect on the circumstances leading up to the overdose and the consequences that followed after as the doc goes on. Doc series definitely helps to clarify the timeline of what event down that night and the continuing health crisis that has plagued her since she was a kid.
Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil is a story of trauma, the constant judgment of Hollywood, and societal pressures that are overwhelming her and, in that influence, how Lovato takes care of her illness. Right away, Lovato clears up any misconceptions of what happened. There were many rumors about what happened or what triggered the relapse, and Lovato is quite blunt about it. Lovato me has always been a bold and loud icon to me, so it wasn’t surprising, at least me, that she didn’t shy or hide away from the abuse she has caused her body. The raw and grittiness are just what the doctor ordered.
However, it was distressing to see how six years of sobriety could go so wrong in a matter of seconds. Six years is a long time to be sober, and when that ends, it’s hard to see. People have a hard time understanding addiction unless they have experienced it themselves or are close to someone who has or is. Overdosing is detrimental to the body, and for some, they don’t recover, or if they do, there is damage to the body that isn’t recoverable. For Lovato, she revealed that she had multiple strokes, a heart attack that left her partially blind and forced her to stop driving, and her oxygen deprivation was so bad her entire body turned blue. Lovato also revealed as she was recovering that the person responsible for selling her the drugs that caused her to overdose had sexually assaulted her and left her for dead. I find that I want to applaud the singer for telling her story because all the trauma she has experienced over the years took tremendous strength to be so open and candid. Lovato went through a lot, and not all of it can be explained in less than a couple of hours.
Toward the end, Lovato has adapted the controversial technique of moderation management to aid her on her sobriety journey. Lovato sees it as regaining her control over her life back because other people have been making the decisions for her just as she uses moderation to help manage her eating disorder. The moderation management essentially does that someone with addiction would take a “little bit” and that it. In the docuseries, Elton John makes an appearance expressing great love for Lovato and is 30 years sober, a bit sad, doesn’t believe that it will work. Everyone is different, and everyone handles their addictions differently, so who’s to say that it won’t work for her? I enjoyed Elton John showing so much love and support for Lovato. Having that kind of support makes a difference in how someone can sober up, but the person has to want the help to get help truly. By the end, I could feel the weight being lifted, and that in itself is powerful too.
Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars
At times, the film was hard to watch, tears in my eyes that I could hardly see in front of me, and even though I struggled to watch, I knew that it was vital that I did. Not only did Lovato use her powerful voice to express her pain, but those who feel like they don’t have a voice can express themselves too. There isn’t anyone out in the world that shouldn’t watch Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil but be warned it’s not for the faint of heart.