Nothing surprising here: a world-famous and, at the present moment, hyper-spotlighted celebri-sapien made a documentary that’s entirely self-serving. But there something in the way the New York Times takes these things down that’s so subtly satisfying…

That’s just one instance in this gauzy, stylish and utterly opaque film that comes off less as an autobiography than a song-and-dance defense brief. There are no witnesses testifying on Beyoncé‘s behalf — she is almost the only person in the film who speaks more than a few words — nor is there any obvious reason someone as popular, recognized and financially rewarded as Beyoncé would feel misunderstood, yet the intent is clear.

“Beyoncé: Life Is but a Dream” is as contrived as “Madonna: Truth or Dare,” but probably for good reason it is neither daring nor entirely truthful. It’s an infomercial, not just about Beyoncé’s talent onstage but her authenticity behind the scenes. She is a people-pleasing diva and she wants to keep it that way.

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