Nicole Kidman tells AMC audiences before every showing about “sound I can feel” and how “heartbreak feels good in a place like this.” She could just as easily have been talking about watching “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour.” The near three-hour presentation of Swift’s final U.S. tour dates, filmed in Los Angeles at Sofi Stadium, is a bombastic celebration of not only Swift’s musical catalog, but friendship, joy and color that benefits from being on the biggest screen possible.
Whether you were at the concert or seeing it for the first time, Swift put on a show that dazzles, amazes and enchants. Swift plays nearly all the songs included in the Los Angeles shows, minus a few here and there. Hits like “Shake It Off” and “Cruel Summer” are present and accounted for, but it’s wonderful to get to see how Swift plays with her audience and plays different characters during the performance. Case in point, a sequence during her “Evermore” set where she performs “Tolerate It.” Like a mini-play Swift and a dancer act out an estranged couple with all the emotion of watching an actual movie.
Director Sam Wrench introduces each section, highlighting a specific Swift album, with a CGI-heavy intro that feels at odds with the practical effects on stage but it helps break up the music-heavy tour. Swift is constantly in motion, a whirling dervish in a variety of diaphanous gowns and body suits that the camera lovingly captures. You can see literally every sequin and bead.
And that’s really one of several reasons to see “Eras” in a theater, to take in the detail of the massive undertaking that is Swift’s tour. Wrench’s camera swirls around Swift and her dancers, in several scenes making the audience wonder if a physical camera was present or a drone. The level of detail on-stage is a testament to Swift herself, but it’s a delight to watch amongst all the songs, whether that’s the fact that her microphone changes to match each album or how the audience can see the name Taylor on Swift’s guitar.
It’s also great seeing the way Swift commands Sofi, with the camera capturing several shows of the massive crowd. Fans are seen singing along and, in many cases, outright sobbing. Swift may say at the beginning of the concert that she feels like “the man,” but watching the fans react to her makes her feel more akin to all four of the Beatles. At one point the cameras capture the heavily publicized moment of Swift hugging Kobe Bryant’s daughter Bianka and while it became a huge deal in the news cycle, on-screen it’s, dare we say, an intimate moment that brings tears to the eyes.
The “Evermore” and “Reputation” sections of the movie are the highlight of the concert and film. The former, one of two pandemic albums Swift produced, yields utterly beautiful choreography and production design, with dancers coming on-stage with beautiful globes evoking candlelight. Swift’s performance of her songs from “Reputation” are hard-hitting which allows the theater’s sound system to show it’s power, the vibrations are pretty intense.
It’s interesting that the film doesn’t include any actual documentary elements. This is the concert itself, nothing more, nothing less. Swift occasionally sits down to talk with her audience but she’s still just as curated and polished as she is anywhere else. This isn’t a criticism and, if anything, gives the audience directly what they want: the ability to experience Eras in a theater with the best seat in the house. But it is nice watching the end credits where Swift fans are shown alongside moments where Swift endures costume malfunctions.
An audience’s mileage will vary depending on how much they love Swift or if they value one album over another. The runtime sails, especially as it doesn’t have the downtime you’d experience at an actual concert. Swift and Wrench have done something truly special with the “Eras” film and that is making a colorful celebration of music and, unintentionally, cinema.
To watch the audience at the film’s premiere dance in the aisles and sing every song is only a small example of how this will hit audiences when it goes wide. This has the ability to become a true communal experience that reminds us, as Nicole Kidman tells us, why we come to the movies: to find magic.
“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” will be in theaters, distributed by AMC, starting October 12.