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A Teenage Swiftie Checks in on the Biggest Movie in the Country

‘Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour’ is as much an event as the live concerts were—but come on, turn off your phone’s flashlight

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As expected, Swifties have treated the release of Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour about how they would an actual concert. I’ve seen the same ritual preparations from fans across the internet—making friendship bracelets, planning outfits, listening and re-listening to your favorite Taylor albums (all of them). The hype that always accompanies crazy Swiftie fan culture lived up to expectations when I saw the film on its official opening night, October 13. You could pick out the Swifties pretty quickly walking into the theater: some in “Junior Jewels” T-shirts (from the “You Belong With Me” music video) others with slightly too large red scarves (referencing “All Too Well”). I went pretty last minute with my friend Maddy, both of us decked in our Eras Tour T-shirts and favorite friendship bracelets from our Philly show. 

Stampedes of teenage girls and moms with young daughters made their way to either relive the Eras Tour or experience it for the first time. Going into this blind, I was curious if it would be a behind-the-scenes situation or just live tour footage. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed when I realized it was only live footage, but of course, any Taylor is good Taylor to me and I was about as excited to see the movie as I’d been to go to the show itself. 

Anticipation filled the room as we watched the billowing pink fans part onscreen to reveal Taylor herself singing “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince.” A group of girls in the front row gasped and danced around in a way that could only make me assume this was their first time seeing the Eras Tour at all. I really can't stress enough that it was nothing like being in a movie theater and every bit like being at a small-venue concert. The people standing (yes, every one of them) in the first few rows acted like they’d scored pit seats, not the universally agreed-upon worst seats in the movie theater.

As we moved from era to era, people stood up, dancing in their seats for their favorites, still singing along to the rest, clapping at the end of each performance, and getting excited all over again when the next song started. There were times where I couldn’t tell if I was hearing fans singing in the movie or in my theater. Crowd participation moments like the two "You Belong With Me" claps and the “1 2 3 LBG” cheer in “Delicate” traveled from stage to screen as well. Every song was treated as a surprise, and every song was at least one person’s favorite. When Taylor started her performance of “marjorie,” I heard a girl a few rows away whisper “no!” 

I did find myself a little annoyed at the lack of theater etiquette when it came to phones. I know it’s a concert movie, but honestly, there are just some lines that should be left uncrossed, and when the flash on your phone is so bright that it’s projecting silhouettes of the row in front of you onto the screen, you’ve skipped like, several yards beyond the line. Some may say “You shouldn’t have gone on opening night then!” but I don’t know, sue me for having the high hopes that people would leave their phone flashlights off in a movie theater. But, oh well, it’s a theater with a bunch of teenage girls, and I’m deciding to try being less crotchety.

Overall, the energy in the theater was about as close to live as you could get, and it really did transform it from a movie experience to a concert one. And obviously, it’s always so much fun to be in a big room of people who love the same thing you love just as much (OK, maybe not quite as much). Now that I’ve settled down a bit from the re-ignition of Eras Tour craze, I’ve been able to pin down my movie thoughts.

Sitting in the theater, down $19.89 and halfway through a bucket of popcorn (not the specially priced collectable bucket—she’s got enough of my money already), I started to wonder if it might be a waste to watch a movie I’d essentially already seen. But there was actually so much of the Eras Tour that I’d missed. It’s easy for everything to blend together at a live concert, but the movie magnified so many small details in every number that I was too caught up in the moment to make out live.

You can count each bead on the witchy evermore dress and pick out which of the background dancers’ costumes you’d want to wear the most, which was obviously the gorgeous layered blue dress the dancer playing Rebekah in “the last great american dynasty” wears. The choreography, too, caught me by surprise. While the dancers seem to fade into the total craziness of Taylor Swift’s aura on tour, the movie focused some shots on their very vital performances in bringing these albums to life. It was a good reminder that the Eras Tour is much more than Taylor Swift prancing around on stage. It’s nice to slow down and recognize there are other talented people involved.

Non-fans may not realize that Taylor Swift’s performances are less about singing a song and more about a whole dramatic production (remember this 2007 Forever & Always performance?). That sort of drama is exactly what I'm hoping for from everything she releases, and she definitely delivered with what became my favorite performance, “tolerate it.” Taylor sits at one end of a comically long table with her supposed lover at the other. Throughout the devastatingly sad song, she crawls across the table, knocking over everything in her path and begging him to love her completely or end it all right there. Watching the movie, I felt like the performance should have always been seen that way–the pained look on both her and the background dancer’s face, the pan of her moving down the table. Only now did I really feel like I got the song as she’d intended. It’s an intimate performance for an intimate song that totally slipped through the cracks for me live but came to life in a completely new way on screen.

The only part of the movie that bored me a little was the Red era. While some people rate that album highly, I just don’t care for it. I felt pretty much the same about the set as I had seeing the show in person: The costumes are less inspired, just a sequined fake T-shirt and red/black ombré bodysuit (a fashion faux-pas, in my opinion—ombré is and should be a thing of the past), and everything is reminiscent of the 2012-2014 years which were (at least I think) no one’s best years, especially fashion’s. It’s not that I don’t like Red at all—”All Too Well” is one of her best written songs—but its time on screen just doesn’t compare to the songs, costumes, and choreography of the other sets. 

The movie was such an overwhelming experience that I didn’t notice some disappointing and frankly suspect cuts from the tour’s setlist until afterwards. The movie completely skipped over all-time favorites “cardigan” and “The Archer.” These choices shocked me: There’s been virtually no point in time where “cardigan” hasn't been trending online in one way or another since its release, and that moment in “The Archer” where Taylor poses like she’s shooting a bow and arrow has been photographed more than, I would guess, any other point in the entire tour. But I've been a fan long enough to learn that Taylor Swift always knows better than me. I’ll probably come around eventually.

So yes, shocker, a known Swiftie loved the Eras Movie. If we’re being honest obviously no movie could quite match up to the energy and excitement of the actual live Eras Tour, but this was certainly as close as you could get, and with its own perks. The joy and love in every theater, the commitment of fans (from outfits to cheers), and the new perspective offered on each era made the experience just as special. I’d even recommend it to someone who isn’t obsessed with Taylor Swift. Anyone can appreciate the attention to detail and level of performance from everyone involved. And anyway, who isn’t obsessed with Taylor these days, and if you say you aren’t you’re lying.

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