In recent years, I’ve increasingly looked at emotion as a signifier of quality in entertainment. We’re living in a time with an overabundance of well-produced, technically sound, even inspired works of art in film, in books and in video games — there’s too much good stuff out there. Amongst all the high quality art battling for limited hours in the day, it’s the works that are leaving me feeling that stand out. Those are the experiences I’m seeking out every day.
“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” made me feel. If emotion is a measure of quality, it’s a masterpiece. It made an impact on me that could rival any of the best films I’ve seen this year.
At different times I was enraptured with a smile, wiping away a tear, shouting out in surprise or laughing aloud. “The Eras Tour” filled me with joy and it left me gutted. I walked out of an opening night show looking to schedule a second viewing — desperate to again feel the way I felt that night.
The concert film depicts a stop on Swift’s Eras Tour at SoFi Stadium in California. Filmed across three performances at the venue in August, it runs roughly three hours as Swift performs songs from all 10 of her studio albums — divided into “Eras.” Swift travels through her history and across genres and styles — particularly focusing on the four albums whose rollouts were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; “Lover”, “folklore”, “evermore” and “Midnights.”
“The Eras Tour” is an experience and a spectacle with twists and surprises. It also makes more accessible a cultural phenomenon that’s been in the news and on TikTok all year. It’s exciting to see something like this happen on movie screens in Kenai and Soldotna.
Days removed, I’m still thinking of the thrilling transition between “Don’t Blame Me” and “Look What You Made Me Do.” I’m thinking of the impactful acting in the tremendously sad “tolerate it,” the silly dance solo by the scene-stealing Kam Saunders in “Bejeweled,” and the stunning performance of a personal favorite, “the last great american dynasty.” “Shake It Off” was pretty great too.
Though my showing didn’t have any people dancing in front of the stage, people could be heard quietly singing along, and a pair of attendees knew all of the crowd chants — calling out to Swift at all the right moments. It was a magical evening.
I never thought that “The Eras Tour” would be anything less — it’s about the highest-grossing stadium tour in history, one that’s driven local economies and been tracked on the Richter scale. It’s about a tour featuring the life’s work of one of history’s most successful and influential songwriters. Simply putting the show on film would produce a quality product, but there’s a sense of earnestness on display that elevates the film higher.
The film depicts a remarkable artistic endeavor by Swift and a team of other dancers, vocalists and instrumentalists. The film is cut down from a live show that runs closer to four hours. The performers are singing, dancing, playing instruments, changing costumes and even acting across dozens of songs — Swift herself being in the spotlight moving up and down elaborate structures and performing vocally, with a guitar and on the piano at different times.
The production also wows. Different sets appear on stage for different songs or eras like a facsimile of the Holiday House in the “folklore Era” or an office space for “The Man.” Massive LED screens fill the background as well as a long runway that extends out into the crowd.
I was regularly impressed by the camera work and the editing — especially in the more heavily produced “Reputation Era.” In addition to the performances and the stage, the film spends a lot of time depicting the crowd, capturing people partaking in all the same moments; screaming, crying, shouting and dancing.
“The Eras Tour” came the same day I completed a monthslong intentional process of familiarizing myself with each of Swift’s songs and albums. I was prepared to take everything I possibly could out of that experience, and I absolutely did just that.
Anyone with even passing enjoyment of a broad swath of Swift’s broad catalog will likely find a lot to love here. It’s easy to be swept up in the lights, the sounds and Swift’s own exuberant stage presence. Those with less affinity for the pop star’s work may find less in the experience, but this film could win over some hearts and minds.
“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” will be playing this weekend at the Kenai Cinema and the Orca Theater. Check showtimes and get tickets at catheaters.com or orcatheater.com. Uniquely, showings are only available at both theaters on the weekends, Thursday through Sunday.