Critics Are Pretty Split About The New Robbie Williams Netflix Documentary

The Angels singer the the subject of a personal four-part series on the streaming service.

Pop star Robbie Williams is the latest celebrity to get the Netflix documentary treatment, after his self-titled four-part series hit the streaming service on Wednesday.

It tells the story of how Robbie rose from being 16-year-old boy from Stoke-on-Trent to become part of one of the UK’s biggest boy bands at the time, Take That.

Charting the highs and lows that followed – including his personal difficulties with his mental health, drug use and stint in rehab – the series features never-before-seen personal archival footage to coincide with the 25th anniversary of his solo career.

Following the documentary’s release, critics have had their say, and it’s fair to say the reception has been pretty mixed – here’s what the reviews are saying...

Robbie Williams
Robbie Williams

The Guardian (2/5 stars)

It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry. Most likely, you will do neither. Fame’s psychological ill-effects are patently not funny, and Robbie Williams is more evidence that celebrity is an affliction and an addiction, which in turn leaves the series feeling like an opportunity to rubberneck at disaster.

“At the same time, Williams is so hard to empathise with. It turns out it’s surprisingly tricky to emotionally connect with someone when all you see is them – as this myopic documentary has proven to its own detriment.”

Independent (4/5 stars)

“While Robbie Williams is undoubtedly a PR exercise (as, it should be said, most shows of its ilk are) there is enough texture in the patina to make it work. The glossy surface of the manufactured modern pop story, from Taylor Swift to Ed Sheeran, is absent here.

“Robbie Williams combines titillation and pity as effectively as its namesake does braggadocio and vulnerability.”

iNews (3/5 stars)

“There are no other interviews or talking heads throughout the series (aside from a few snippets of insight from Williams’s wife of 13 years, Ayda Field, in the final episode), giving the films an intimate feel yet also curiously limited scope.

“Has Netflix exploited a troubled celebrity for views and subscribers? It’s hard not to come to such a conclusion, especially since the ending – in which a present-day Williams leaves his crying children to go on tour, the very thing that broke him in the first place – feels so quietly devastating.”

NME (4/5 stars)

“Robbie Williams is a tale of the last era of super-charged celebrity. It’s an unflinching depiction of tabloid fuckery, mass ignorance of mental health issues and a pre-social media age in which a handful of celebrities found themselves at the molten centre of the pop culture universe. Few, of course, remained unscathed. The set-up is innovative: director Joe Pearlman eschews the usual talking heads to focus on Robbie himself, who is shown previously unseen archive footage from throughout his career and responds to it in real-time. For some reason, he usually does so in his pants.

“It’s a persuasive account of the gulf that can occur between wealth and happiness, a simple sentiment that can be difficult to really feel. Like Robbie himself, the show’s imperfect and a little insular, but its emotional pull is undeniable.”

Radio Times (4/5 stars)

“[...] This documentary gives an insight into the human Robbie Williams, rather than the entertainer we have grown up listening to over the years.

“Told in his own words, Williams controls the narrative of his life, which has been spoken about by millions for years. And while it’s dark, a difficult watch at times, it’s essential viewing to gain perspective on how fame and stardom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

Robbie Williams is available to watch on Netflix now.


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