“I’m not a girl, not yet a woman. All I need is time, a moment that is mine, while I’m in between.” Britney Spears, I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman
Hello everyone. Today we are taking a bit of a turn from all things Bachelor Nation and reviewing a little Lifetime movie called Britney Ever After. I’m not going to lie- I’m a complete Lifetime movie junkie, and not because they are good. In fact, they are the complete opposite of good, and therein lies the appeal. I’ve long been a fan of these over-the-top, cheesy movies since junior high, before Lifetime, when they used to air in primetime on weeknights. Who wouldn’t love to feast their eyes on a movie about a murderous cheerleader or a co-ed who turns to hooking to pay her tuition or a girl with an eating disorder and a heart of gold in their formative years? (The answer to that question is a lot of people, but I can get sucked in to a glossy movie with a message any day of the week.) Anyway, Britney Ever After doesn’t disappoint, so let’s delve into some of the finer moments, shall we?
The movie is shot in flashbacks while Britney gives an interview to talk about her big comeback after her much-publicized 2007 meltdown. When we open, Brit is new on the scene and just starting to tour with NSync as the opening act. She’s dressed like a literal baby, in overalls with a striped onesie and pigtails, and it is important to note that the actress who plays Britney (Natasha Bassett) looks absolutely nothing like her, other than the fact that she has blond hair and brown eyes. From the beginning, we see that Jamie Spears (Brit-Brit’s “daddy”) is a grouchy alcoholic with money problems who makes everyone’s life miserable. Brit’s mom Lynn seems over him from the word go, which should make the news that they eventually divorce come as a surprise to nobody. Along for the tour is Brit’s assistant, Fee (Felicia, maybe? No idea) to basically be her parent/guardian since neither of her actual guardians could be bothered to make the trip. Brit’s little sister JamieLynn (get it? Jamie- the dad, and Lynn- the mom. How clever) is along for the drop-off, as is Reg (Britney’s high school sweetheart apparently), who Britney’s manager Larry is very dismissive of, presumably to keep Brit’s appeal as a relatable virgin intact. It’s clear from the beginning that A)Britney isn’t too bright and B) she isn’t really allowed to make many decisions about anything. And then suddenly, like a denim-clad, curly-haired 90s beacon of shining light, Justin Timberlake appears. Justin and Britney have history (they appeared on The Mickey Mouse club together as children) and they definitely have a lot of sexual tension. They flirt and I have to say that the actor who played Justin(Nathan Keyes, whoever that is) nailed his voice and mannerisms. This just goes to show what a likable person the real JTimbo is, because even in a terrible movie like this, he comes off as charming.
Soon, we see Brit smoking behind the tour bus like Kristen Doute by the dumpsters at the Sexy Unique Restaurant. (I’m assuming you all watch Vanderpump Rules and get that reference. If not, get yourself to Hulu immediately after reading this and sort yourself out on that one. You’ll thank me.) Clearly, even teenage Brit was never as chaste and squeaky clean as we were made to believe, which kind of came as a shock to me. I always thought she went crazy post-Justin, in the Federline years. My mistake. Anyway, Brit and Justin finally act on the flirtation they’ve been sharing since they were kids and kiss, which quickly escalates to them boning on the tour bus while Fee sleeps. Justin, ever the gentleman, says he doesn’t want to push if she’s not ready, and Brit straddles him like a pro, which suggests this may not have been her first time. She seduces him with lines like, “I have, like, zero boobies” and Justin tells her she’s perfect. The years pass, and Britney and Justin choose to hide their relationship for some reason (I’m guessing it has something to do with keeping their fans thinking they are both single) but lots of early aughts slang like “you’re the bomb diggity” is uttered and at one point, we see the entirety of faux NSync serenading Brit on her birthday. Eventually “Pinky and Stinky” (their pet names for each other) decide to use the VMAs as their coming out party, clad in the worst matching denim outfits your eyes ever did see. (But come on, Lifetime- getting the costumes right should have been the one thing you could do correctly, as you can easily google those outfits- that is if they aren’t already burned on your brain- and the Lifetime version wasn’t really even close.) Twas true love, for sure, and we learn this because they vacation together with Brit’s family and find out that a sex tape (a “boudoir video” as drunk, angry Jamie Spears calls it) is stolen and then recovered before it could be leaked. (Can you even imagine if a sex tape of a barely legal Britney and a ramen-noodle haired Justin had gotten out? The current day may have been a very different landscape for those two if that was the case.) But as Brit’s star rises, so do their problems. They go long periods of time without seeing each other, they are young and jealous, which is only made worse when Justin’s friend, the famous choreographer (have those two words ever been used in a sentence together not ironically?) offers her his snake. (A real snake- a python- to dance with at the VMAs, but we all get the symbolism.) Brit’s on tour, Justin’s on tour, there are missed calls and voicemails a plenty, complete with lots of bare midriffs and boot cut jeans to remind us how far we’ve come, fashion-wise. There are fights and make-ups, (one particularly awkward moment involves a hasty round of makeup sex where Justin’s gold chain gets caught in Brit’s denim vest and then they get caught in the act by Fee, who barely bats an eyelash.) Soon after, before she hosts SNL, Justin finds evidence that Wade and his other snake (trouser, not python, though I’ve never met the guy so I don’t want to make any assumptions as to what he does or does not have going on down below) have had a go in Brit’s lady garden. He says it’s over and the downward spiral begins.
Britney, already a little shaky in terms of reality, loses her shit at this point. She is reprimanded for “partying” too much, though we don’t know if that’s just booze or drugs or what. During this time, Jamie and Lynn finally make the decision to put everyone out of their misery and pull the plug on their shitshow of a marriage. Britney calls to talk to Justin, but that call goes unanswered. Brit and her friend go to a club to dance their troubles away, and in walks Justin with a date. (The date happened to be Jenna Dewan in real life. They did a video together, pre-Channing Tatum, and I only know this because US Weekly has long been my paper of record and I remember exactly where I was when I read the story of the real-life dance off. It was August of 2002 and it took place at a bar called The Lounge. I had just moved to Los Angeles and read the story by the pool at my apartment complex. #neverforget) Anyway, Brit is mad that Justin is moving on, and the two of them enter into what looks like a choreographed routine, but by all accounts was a spontaneous dance-off that lasted far longer than it should have. If you have trouble believing that this really happened, then we probably can’t be friends, as I stand by everything reported in US Weekly as if I had seen it with my own two eyes. It is important to note that the girl cast as Britney is a passable dancer, but no Brit, nor does “Justin” have the moves like Timberlake. I mean, come on Lifetime. I know the budget was probably modest, but there are a TON of actor/dancers/singers in LA that probably could have done a better job. (Especially when I looked it up on IMDB and found out that faux Britney is actually Australian. Which I guess explains the accent. I just thought it was a choice to make her sound real Louisiana, y’all.)
Britney grinds up on and kisses Madonna at the VMAs, presumably to get a rise out of Justin, who is now shacked up with the “old” (her words, not mine) Cameron Diaz. Soon after, Britney gets drunk and marries a childhood friend, Jason Alexander in Vegas. In a New York minute, Jamie and Lynn and Larry, the long-suffering manager, arrive and demand an annulment, and I can’t help but note that if Jamie and Lynn put as much into their marriage as they did into keeping Brit’s image intact, that marriage may have had a much longer shelf life. Right after the Vegas debacle comes another problematic scenario for Britney- her relationship with backup dancer Kevin “Meatpole” Federline- which we all know doesn’t end well. (Who watched the Britney and Kevin reality show when it was on? Unsurprisingly, I didn’t miss a minute.) They get engaged, they have a surprise wedding (with Brit in a brief brunette moment), and they have two kids in about a minute and a half. Brit has a chip on her shoulder with her manager Larry. And Kevin is not the most attentive husband/father as Britney’s calls/texts go largely unanswered while she struggles with two young kids. Things go from bad to worse when she goes through his phone and finds evidence of cheating and she eventually texts him “I Wnt 2 Dvorce U” and we can all relate to a time when texts had a limited number of characters, so I totally get the need to abbreviate. Drug use is hinted at, but never explicitly mentioned, and they kind of gloss over the head-shaving paparazzi meltdown, which was horrifying and fascinating at the time and would have been a good place to have some really meaty, emotional scenes for the lead actress. But this is Lifetime and we know better than to expect that. It is important to note, though, that when the movie gets dark (and it does get dark), the lead actress is at her best. I mean, she’s not going to win an oscar, but she definitely handles the dramatic scenes better than the lighter ones.
Brit goes crazy at a photo shoot- she has lost custody of her kids and soon fires her manager and gets involved with some creepy Svengali known as Sam Lufti. His job description and qualifications are unclear, but it appears that he is acting as Brit’s manager and pumping her full of whatever substance keeps her from functioning at her optimum level, which, let’s be honest, is a pretty low bar to begin with, based on what this movie has shown us, anyway. But I have to say, there is a truly heartbreaking moment when Justin goes to her dressing room to wish her luck (before the disastrous “Gimme More” performance at the VMAs) and she’s such a mess that she refuses to see him. He tells someone (Fee maybe? I had some wine at this point) to tell her to “break everything” (an inside joke from the NSync tour days) and they lock eyes in a mirror and she looks completely broken. I know this is a ridiculous Lifetime movie, but that one gave me all the feels, because who hasn’t had a moment like that with their first love? And also, wine. Anyway, Brit bombs onstage and things just continue to get worse. Sam Lufti won’t let Brit out of his sight (not even to buy a lipstick with mama at the CVS down the street) and mama knows shit is only going to go downhill. They get her old manager Larry involved again and serve Psycho Sam with a restraining order (where Manny, the messenger, makes a brief appearance on screen but a permanent impression on the movie because he steals the scene with his “You’ve been served” realness.) Britney’s dad becomes a conservator over her affairs (which I believe he still is, to this day) and she finally gets her shit together, or as together as it can be for a girl who has been famous for most of her life and the primary breadwinner for her family for as long.
At the end, we see a mention of her comeback and her Vegas residency and I am emotionally drained, and not in a good way, like after you watch a truly good movie and not this train wreck that Lifetime has subjected us to. The wardrobe is terrible, the dialogue is worse and the acting is… passable, at best. Do I regret wasting two hours watching Britney Ever After? Kind of. Would I watch it again? Definitely. So there you have it. See you for the Bachelor and overnights.