Achieving fame (and its accompanying fortune) at a young age may seem like the ultimate dream, but, in reality, childhood stardom is precariously fraught with troubles. Wading through the waters of fame at an early age while growing up in the public eye can be a tricky business, and Demi Lovato is one of the many child stars who have experienced this phenomenon first-hand.
The American singer and actress stepped into the entertainment industry at the tender age of 8, getting her first prominent role in the children’s series Barney & Friends (2002 – 2004) before gaining global recognition after joining the Disney Channel roster in 2007. Starring roles in the short show As the Bell Rings (2007 – 2008), the Camp Rock television film series (2008 – 2010), and the sitcom Sonny with a Chance (2009 – 2011) as well as a nascent pop music career soon made her a household name. But the then-teenager subsequently found herself facing a number of personal struggles that threatened to derail both her life and her career.
The 25-year-old has now opened up about the many issues that she has had to deal with in the first two and a half decades of her life in her new documentary Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated, a candid look at her tumultuous past and her current endeavours.
Released on video streaming platform YouTube, the film serves as both an intimate, confessional piece about her life and a promotional tool for her latest album, Tell Me You Love Me (2017).
Directed by Hannah Lux Davis (who has previously directed music videos and is making her full-length debut here), Simply Complicated finds Lovato opening up about her drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorder, depression, anger issues, and love life. Also included in the documentary are snippets from interviews with her family members, close friends, and management team, which help shed light on her various battles and triumphs.
The ‘Skyscraper’ singer reveals heart-breaking details of being severely bullied at school where at one point a “suicide petition” got passed around saying that she should kill herself. She looks back on how she ended up becoming a star in her teens, the impact of her early success, and what transpired behind the scenes as her personal life unravelled. Lovato details her long road to recovery from cocaine addiction and alcoholism – which she blames in part on her biological father’s choices and her search for why he found drugs and alcohol so fulfilling that he chose them over his family – and how she still struggles with bulimia.
Her relationship with Wilmer Valderrama also comes up in the documentary, and the singer makes it fairly obvious that she is still in love with her former beau even though they broke up last June. She admits that she is open to a “human connection” irrespective of gender and is still looking for love, using a dating app to find potential suitors.
But candid discussions about her life aren’t all that this film is about. Simply Complicated also attempts to showcase Lovato’s vocal talents. Her performances are complimented as she records songs in the studio while creating her sixth album, Tell Me You Love Me. The film doesn’t quite give you a full picture of Lovato as a pop star and working musician, nor do we get a proper sense of her creative process, but there are enough musical pieces thrown into the proceedings to nudge the viewer into potentially purchasing her songs.
It’s this combination of commercial and confessional that doesn’t always gel and, at time, undercuts the overall impact of the documentary. The blend of promotional and revelatory isn’t as seamless as you’d hope, and ends up serving as a reminder that the film wasn’t created just to explore the singer’s life but also to promote the artist and her latest project. That said, the overall focus of the documentary mostly remains on her personal ups and downs, and her raw honesty ultimately wins you over. Lovato really does reveal a lot about some of the darkest moments from her past, and it is inspiring to see the progress this young woman has made in overcoming her demons over the last few years. Her fans, who are obviously the primary audience for this piece, will surely appreciate her candour, but the film is also likely to fascinate anyone else who is interested in an exploration of the highs and lows faced by a child star turned popular artist in the world of show business.