With the Rise Of #FreeBritney, It’s Time to Re-Examine “Crossroads”

Recently, the Princess of Pop confirmed her fans worst fears during a trial regarding her conservatorship. The iconic Britney Spears spoke about the abuse she has endured to due to the constraints on her personal life and her finances. Ms. Spears has been in a conservatorship since 2008 in which her father, Jamie Spears, has had control over every aspect of her life including her money, her time with her children, her career, and even what color to paint her kitchen cabinets. Her recent court testimony confirmed her dad has manipulated his power and made her a cash cow of sorts, making him rich off of her misfortunes. She also has alleged medical abuse against her father, stating her father forced her to take new medication when she didn’t cooperate with him.

As a lifelong Britney fan I found myself crying and distraught. On top of being one of the most influential pop singers of all time, Britney is also a gay icon. For many gay people, Britney has been our form of expression, a symbol that united all of us. For her to be hurting feels personal.

I decided to break out my DVD copy of her only feature film performance, 2002’s Crossroads. The film follows Spears and two friends (played by Zoe Saldana and Taryn Manning) as they journey across the country to visit Spears’ character’s estranged mother and make some dreams along the way.

Still of Britney Spears as Lucy in "Crossroads". She is wearing a gold necklace and blue jean jacket.
Britney Spears in “Crossroads”

The film was a box office success, grossing over $61 million. However, critical response was not good. The film had been trashed for being purely a vehicle for Spears to tryout acting. This was in a Pre-Lady Gaga/A Star is Born era in which a pop star turned film actress caused several eye rolls. Every pop star tried it, from Madonna to Cher and Mariah Carey. Most caused critics to turn their noses up, even when the outcome turned out to be good, such as several of Cher’s acclaimed performances.

Spears’ film has been largely forgotten except to those of us that are ride or die Britney fans. But was the film really as bad as critics said? Should Britney have done more films?

Most reviews didn’t have anything nice to say, so it’s easy to see why Britney never did another film. Robert K. Elder of the Chicago Tribune was among the many nay-sayers, saying, “Spears delivers a performance with the same sincerity she invests into a Pepsi commercial, only this film contains twice the sugary calories.” Harsh.

While I am certainly biased, I think Crossroads was much too harshly judged. The story isn’t anything revolutionary, but it’s relatable to several people out there. It takes us on a journey full of self-discovery and friendship. Yes, it can be described as a “Chick Flick” for those still using that outdated term. But there’s more depth here than it gets credit for.

Zoe Saldana, Taryn Manning, and Britney Spears standing next to one another outdoors
(Left to right) Zoe Saldana, Taryn Manning, and Britney Spears in “Crossroads”

Britney’s character, Lucy, is under severe pressure from her dad (wonder where she drew that inspiration from) to become a doctor. She doesn’t know her mom, and wants to journey across the country to see her. Meanwhile her two childhood best friends have drifted away from her. Kit, played by Zoe Saldana, is dealing with her long distance boyfriend and her friend Mimi, Taryn Manning, is pregnant while wanting to be a singer.

Each girl has a big hurdle to overcome. In the end, they empower each other to make the right decisions for themselves. The film didn’t wait for a nice guy to show up and save them (although Lucy does start a new romance) and the film actually gets in depth about issues such as teenage pregnancy, slut shaming, estranged parents, etc.

The film doesn’t come off shallow or out of touch. It gives each of the girls their moment to evolve, rather than simply focus on Britney 100% of the time. Yes, Britney gets to sing twice, but why not use that if you have a great singer in your movie?

Zoe Saldana, Taryn Manning, and Britney Spears sing together in a car
(Left to right) Zoe Saldana, Taryn Manning, and Britney Spears in “Crossroads”

Britney is impressive in herself. At this point in her career, she was the number one artist in the game. She had three of the biggest albums of all time. She easily could’ve shown up, gotten her check and left. Yet, she comes off as likable, sincere, and a pretty good actress. In fact, at a certain point it’s easy to forget you’re watching Britney Spears. She just comes off as Lucy, the girl you want to win the day.

The movie isn’t bad. Could it have been better? Sure. So could Fast & Furious and Transformers. At the end of the day, it isn’t the vanity project several critics accused it of being. It has a lot of heart and sincerity to it. Britney and the rest of the cast are a joy to watch. I have to suspect a lot of sexism went into destroying this film the way critics did.

So with the recent (rightful) public apologies to Britney from comedians and media for trashing her image in the 2000s, perhaps some people should also give Crossroads the fair chance it deserves. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and that is fine. Personally, I will take my girl Britney and her movie, over the next testosterone “Dude Flick” any day.


Star rating for "Crossroads". Three stars for diversity, three and a half stars for movie score.




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