JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE INVITES YOU TO A PRIVATE NETFLIX CONCERT
Singer. Songwriter. Dancer. Fashion icon. Musician. Tolerable actor. Past teen heartthrob. Former boy band member. Ex-Musketeer. Husband. Father.
Justin Timberlake perhaps has ticked all of the boxes throughout the years and yet he is only 35. His concert documentary, “Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids,” which premiered exclusively on Netflix on Oct. 12, never once ceased to showcase his youthfulness and showmanship. Under the artful direction of Academy Award-winning director Jonathan Demme, the film captures the last two dates of “The 20/20 Experience World Tour” at the MGM Grand Garden Arena at Las Vegas.
It is a golden opportunity for Timberlake fans, and the occasional curious viewer, who were not able to make it for any of the concert dates as it successfully brings all facets of his concerts—screaming fans, loud music, harmonious background vocals, his charismatic dancing abilities and his own voice—right to the small screen. As its title suggests, while Timberlake is the master of the stage, his accompanying band, the Tennessee Kids, also helped liven up the dark stage amid iridescent lasers, lifelike spotlights and dizzying visuals. Their inclusion augments the overall concert so that there is a level of variety of vocals onstage to feed the insatiable crowd.
It’s no secret that part of Timberlake’s overall image is his own physical attractiveness, his gentlemanly swagger and his sophisticated wardrobe, making him one of the ultimate modern, metrosexual men in the entertainment industry today. As the film begins, Demme has his camera introduce Timberlake as he alights a lavish, black Cadillac, arriving at the venue in casual attire, styled with sunglasses, a hat and a duffel bag. Keeping up with the film’s title, the focus shifts from Timberlake to members of his crew, band, background singers and dancers who each introduce themselves and their backgrounds. Demme does a marvelous job in depicting them as if they’re all one giant family as they relax, eat and chat among themselves.
Watching Timberlake whistle along as he walks out to the actual arena with crossed arms and gaze at all the to-be-filled seats genuinely speaks to how playing a massive concert like this is just normal to him. Throughout the film, the sense of excitement is tinged with bittersweet realization that this 134-date tour will eventually end before that midnight. This is especially evident as Timberlake gives a speech with his encircling, huddled band right before the concert itself, everyone holding hands, praying: “We thank you in advance for another amazing show as we turn up in Jesus’ name! Amen!”
The film offers more behind-the-scenes footage by showing Timberlake step onto his platform, seconds before being raised up to greet the boisterous audience before him. All decked in a black Tom Ford three-piece suit, he begins his concert with the symphonious “Pusher Love Girl,” laced with romantic-sounding violins and triumphant drums. Demme and Timberlake both make sure that the Tennessee Kids are an essential piece in the concert as they, all dressed dapperly as well, share the stage, almost making it appear like a theater from the 1940s.
The camera feels as engaged as Timberlake himself, following him as he simultaneously dances and sings, never faltering, smoothly treating his slender microphone stand like a delicate lover. Despite his layered clothing and sweat gradually blanketing his visage, it does not contain his energy as he performs numbers from all of his albums, like “Suit & Tie,” “Lovestoned” and “Like I Love You.” The crowd gets particularly loud when he presents a remix of his landmark 2006 single, “SexyBack” after teasing “Do you want it, baby? Say please.” He additionally covers the late Michael Jackson’s hit, “Human Nature.” Furthermore, Demme sometimes focuses on his equally-dedicated band, crew, dancers and background singers once again as well as Timberlake accepting a shot from longtime friend and record producer Timbaland who is watching from within the crowd.
Ending his concert and the two-year-long tour with “Mirrors,” the camera closes in to show an obviously-emotional Timberlake thanking his fans as the stage turns to black after he and his band descend from the audience’s view. The film truly illustrates that what permeates the tour is hard work and sheer drive, ranging from the actual people who construct the stage in preparation for the concert to Timberlake’s energetic performances. Throughout the concert which takes up the most screen time, Timberlake also showcases his musical prowess by playing the guitar and piano, and constantly transitioning between singing from the perspective of a romantic gentleman to a flirtatious, seductive lover.
The film’s hidden gem is that the Prince of Pop dedicated the film to the late Prince. But what devoted Timberlake fans eagerly want is a new album which this film unintentionally teases as Timberlake concludes his tour with “I’ll see you next time.”