Okay, don’t judge me.
The truth is that this film was nowhere near my radar for films this week at TIFF. Not at all. Although it was directed by Oscar winner Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs), the idea of spending money to see Timberlake sing his hits on the big screen simply wasn’t on my radar, especially on a film that was purchased by Netflix. However, I had some vouchers that I had to burn and, frankly, there were no other options.
But I’m glad I did.
Filmed on the last night of Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience Tour, there really isn’t much to the film itself. (To be honest, I thought it was going to be more of a documentary about him as opposed to a straight concert film.) Essentially, he performs his hits, with little other commentary about it. Yes, Demme shows his skill behind the camera and helps bring life to what’s happening on stage. Love him or hate him, Timberlake is now a veteran performer and his experience shows onstage by his ability to keep you moving despite a comparably simple stage show. Songs like SexyBack, Like You Love Me and Mirror have unapologetically cemented his place in music history and, even if that’s not your musical preference, it’s hard to deny his talent.
But what I enjoyed most wasn’t on the screen. It was around me.
As the film went on, the atmosphere in the theatre began to… well… shift. Despite being screened in Roy Thompson Hall, the most highly prestigious venue of the festival, this gradually became one of the most interactive experiences I’ve ever had at TIFF. Sitting in a room full of people dressed in their best ‘night out’ clothes, there was a genuine vibe of audience participation that developed. As Timberlake invited those in Las Vegas to pull out their cell phones, so too did a few around the theatre. Then, as Timberlake invited you to clap along with him, more around me began to join in. By the end, there were people belting out his hits right along with him. It was almost like some surreal intersection of film and reality.
You simply wouldn’t get that watching the film on Netflix at home.
It was interesting to me that Demme included the fact that Timberlake and his crew prayed together before the show within the film. (And not just a casual prayer either… it too was an invitation for God to do something special there that night.) While this is hardly an uncommon practice for performers like him, it was a reminder that they realized that He could do something unique in that space. Going to concerts do contain an element of church community within it as each person in the room is drawn together by a common song or story. (Of course, the focus here would definitely be Timberlake as opposed to the Gospel but that’s another story.) My experience watching the film with 2600 other people (seriously) became a special communal experience that one couldn’t help but be drawn into. Even the harshest critic couldn’t deny that this was something infectious. Even though it was not something I would have chosen for myself, there was something special about that experience.
So, judge me if you will… but you missed out on something that you won’t get when it shows up in your Netflix queue.