The beginning of Rihanna 777, the RihannaPlane documentary that aired on Fox last night, is somewhat like the start of a movie like Turistas. Shots outside the aircraft's windows into the clouds indicate hope and excitement, and the passengers — eagerly tearing open their gift bags — are shouting and giggling and ribbing one another. But you know that by the end, everyone involved will be slaughtered and vivisected in a bloody pile.
At least that's how I felt watching it. Having survived the trip with pneumonia, I knew what coughing fits were coming (and that the Australian dude's dick was imminent). But something happened on the way to the end of this film: RihannaPlane... didn't seem that bad. Clever editing will do that!
Rihanna 777 was the trip's official documentary (marketed by Island Def Jam and Roc Nation, as a placard at the ending told us). Obviously it is genius marketing, airing live footage on a major network at prime time while Rihanna's smack dab in the middle of a tour to promote her latest album (read our report here) and perfume (Nude, available at Macy's, as several commercials alerted us between takes). The official documentary crew got only slightly more access than the rest of us, apparently — though they had unprecedented access to virtually ungoogleable journalist Mike Ruffino who, weirdly, gets his own solo, post-plane interview at dive bar the Turkey's Nest in Williamsburg. (#WhoIsMikeRuffino?)
But there were a few things that Rihanna 777 got right:
1. Tamya S. Paxton, flight attendant, was the real star of RihannaPlane.
She's the one with the braces, and I'm so glad she got to go out to a show in Stockholm at least once, because she was up every second serving booze to a whole cast of rowdy and impetuous journos. She even remembered who was drinking what, and by the end, she was serving the guy in front of me Bloody Marys before he even had to ask. If Tamya's employer is reading this, give her a promotion and a raise.
2. Rihanna should not have gone to the club.
A couple of times, Rihanna unconvincingly says she really doesn't think she should be going to the club, but then she does. One of these times, she was at club in Paris until something like 4 a.m., and the plane spent five hours on the tarmac waiting for her to leave for London. Later in the documentary, there is news footage of VH-1 personality Janelle Snowden saying she understands that Rihanna had to protect her voice, so she couldn't be in the back of the plane partying with us. Girl, you know Rihanna was partying all over the world without us! (Bonus: Fox had to blur out so many blunts backstage, keep your eye out for those easter eggs.)
3. Tim Dormer, Australian, is... something else.
Because there is no arc to the documentary, much of it is focused on the antics of Tim Dormer, the Australian shock jock who notoriously streaked the plane on one of the final days. Half of this thing consists of Tim playing that fucking harmonica and trying lamely and racialistly to holler at gossip blogger Necole Bitchie, who spurns his advances with a vaguely nonplussed but not-too-much-effort-requiring side-eye. My mom just called me and said, "I didn't mind his streaking, but that man seemed like a real jackass." She is 76 years old.
4. Yusef Williams!
On the occasion of the final show in New York, interspersed with shots of Jay-Z chewing something off the craft services table, Yusef Williams, Rihanna's hair stylist, speaks the most truth: "No sleep, we party, we work hard, we play hard, and that's just what life is all about." No one is denying Rihanna worked hard, but can we give up the ghost that she wasn't out there doing shots with Akon?
5. The vocals. The abs.
The documentarians got super-close access to the performances and a direct line, apparently, to Rihanna's vocals, so we get a good sampling of her voice (wavering and pitchy at times but still decently solid when she's in her range) and a great view of her abdominal muscles as seen through her amazing outfits (as conjured by Adam Selman and Mel Ottenberg). And, ultimately, that's what it's all about, no? Oh and this 77-minute 777 tour documentary, which you may purchase from Amazon for $9.99! Diamonds are forever!