Review: Demi Lovato’s ‘Dancing With the Devil’ docuseries masters fearless honesty

By Maria Flores, April 13, 2021

Celebrities tend to hide from publicity to avoid scandals, especially flawless and polished idols with their perfectly set hair and makeup revealing only what they want us to see.

Unlike most, American singer Demi Lovato reveals explicit details of the moment leading up to the life-threatening night of her overdose in a four-part YouTube original series, “Dancing With the Devil.” The docuseries, directed by Michael D. Ratner, premiered on March 23 with the final episode released on April 6.

Since Lovato’s days as Disney star, she publicly shared her struggles — from eating disorders to mental illnesses — but buried “the disease of addiction” from the public eye. In the docuseries, Ratner showcases that no topic is off-limits and for the first time in Lovato’s life, she is vulnerable, truthful and ready to avow the night death detained her.

Lovato overdosed on July 24, 2018. Just like the first line of her latest song, “Dancing With the Devil,” it began with “just a little red wine,” but unfortunately, the red wine gave way to unraveling events.

The documentary illustrates the trauma, trepidation and disruption Lovato and her team faced. While Lovato grew up with an abusive father and suffered an eating disorder, a group of dieticians, securities, assistants, coaches and nutritionists gathered to focus on her health. With heavy pressure and strict guidelines, Lovato erupted.

After being sober for six years, Lovato was surveilled daily. Her team followed strict regulations, like receiving drug tests and avoiding eating around the pop star. Her former assistant, Jordan Jackson, revealed that if Lovato ate a cookie, she was obligated to spend the night over to prevent a relapse.

Throughout the docuseries, Ratner included composed clips of Lovato’s concerts and irrupting actions to accompany Lovato’s story, amplifying the narrative. It reminded the audience that her fans witnessed her actions and listened to her songs, but we were imperceptive to her constant battles.

While the documentary did an impressive job in providing insights from the singer, Ratner missed the opportunity to discuss Lovato’s slip-up on her performance on “Sober” in California Mid State Fair. She was unable to finish the last verse of “Sober” that reads the lines, “I’m sorry that I’m here again, I promise I’ll get help / It wasn’t my intention, I’m sorry to myself.” This performance occurred one night before the overdose.

Lovato’s absence to own up to her lyrics indicates the preexisting pain prior to the overdose. Ratner should have explored this scene further rather than settling with statements from Eddie De La Garza, Lovato’s stepdad, who shared that “Demi’s good at making you believe that she’s OK.”

Lovato’s performance not only foreshadowed her overdose, but it allowed viewers to visualize how unwell, defeated and agonized the singer was.

It is strange that no one noticed her performance was a cry for help. It remains unanswered whether she forgot the last verse or she purposely didn’t sing the lyrics because she wasn’t prepared to seek guidance.

Despite the few disappointing scenes, Ratner captured every moment clearly. Each tragic detail of what Lovato endured felt personal and sentimental — an execution that successfully humanizes celebrities.

This series sets the expectations for future documentaries where each story should be told truthfully.

To watch “Dancing With the Devil,” visit its YouTube page and listen to her latest album, “Dancing with the Devil… The Art of Starting Over,” which is available on all music streaming platforms.

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