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Essay: I went to Beyoncé's 'Renaissance' film premiere. Here's what happened — and what to know about the movie

After attending the premiere in Los Angeles, TODAY's digital editorial director reflects in a personal essay about the much-anticipated concert film.

Allow me to set the scene: It's the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and I'm in Los Angeles in a shimmery silver jumpsuit about to walk the "chrome carpet" for the premiere of "Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé." As I enter, a smiling bald gentleman with silky smooth skin offers to spritz me with Beyoncé's new eau de parfum. In the distance, a version of the glittery horse from the "Renaissance" cover glows from inside a glass display case.

Still in a daze that I have made it to this fantasy land, I am frozen in place, drinking in all of the opulence. Then, Janelle Monae bumps into my arm, instantly snapping me out of my private moment, and back to the surreal place I find myself. A few steps away, Gabrielle Union is effortlessly smizing for flashing cameras. Kelly Rowland elicits audible gasps when she struts in in a silver number with a bullet-style bustier. When her fellow Destiny's Child alum Michelle Williams walks by in a dramatic black tulle confection, I can't help but tell her how gorgeous she looks; she graciously thanks me.

Just minutes after I arrived on the chrome carpet, I am ushered into the theater, where my phone is promptly placed and locked inside a bag. All of the attendees had been given the heads up that this would happen to avoid photos and recording during the world's first look “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé" ahead of its official release date Dec. 1.

And it was a good thing, too, because just as the lights dim to signal the movie was about to begin, it happens: I see her. Yes, her. One row over to my right, and there she is: Beyoncé Knowles-Carter quietly sliding in next to Tyler Perry, her daughters, Blue Ivy and Rumi, and her husband, Jay-Z.

Just another Saturday night.

I of course wanted nothing more than to whip my phone out to capture the evidence that I was essentially watching "Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” ... with Beyoncé. But from the very first opening shot of the singer emerging to sing "Dangerously in Love" — the exact same opening she wowed fans with across 56 tour dates earlier this year — I was grateful my phone was safely tucked away. Because for the next two hours and 45 minutes, I was able to completely escape into decadence.

"I'm not a machine," she reiterates, a necessary reminder that while she makes everything look effortless, it's far from it.

Ultimately, the "Renaissance" tour film feels like a gift. During both the tour and also in the movie, Beyoncé emphasizes that she wanted this album and its ensuing world tour to offer a safe space for all kinds of people to feel liberated. For those who didn't get to attend any of the "Renaissance World Tour" dates, this is a rare invitation to experience her once-in-a-lifetime show from the comfort of a theater, much like Taylor Swift recently offered with her "Eras Tour" concert film.

And for those of us who did have the privilege of attending one of Queen Bey's live shows earlier this year, we're now given the opportunity to relive it all over again. To top it all off, the project was directed by the Grammy winner herself, and it’s obvious. The footprint of her signature attention to detail is present in every single shot and scene, from the zoom in to nails spelling “UNIQUE” to the way the storyline flows from motivational to relatable.

There, all in one place, are a large majority of the couture costumes Beyoncé wore while performing in different cities, masterfully edited together. When Beyoncé emerges from the center of the stage to rapturous applause, it's like she is right there in front of you. The shots of her set design and dancers are sharp, her costumes are rich and vibrant, and her vocals sound better than ever. There is no better word to describe this movie than cinematic.

Now, because I think this movie deserves to be enjoyed spoiler-free and don't want to ruin it for anyone (and also because I would like to avoid agitating her team!), I won't give away too much of what's in the movie.

But I will share a little sneak peek, because — as always with one of the entertainment world's most tight-lipped celebrities — some of the movie's most anticipated moments are when we get to hear from Beyoncé herself.

In the film, the 42-year-old Houston native says she hopes to "peel back the curtain" on exactly what went into putting together this show, which took four years in total. She opens up like never before on the toll performing has taken on her body, revealing that before her tour began, she had surgery on her knee that required intense rehabilitation. "I'm not a machine," she says, a necessary reminder that while she makes everything look effortless, the reality is far from it. Make no mistake, this woman is one of the — if not the — most hard-working people in the business.

Beyoncé and her son Sir.YouTube

She also offers a look at her life juggling being an international superstar and mom to 11-year-old Blue Ivy and 6-year-old twins Rumi and Sir — because as she puts it, "Kids don't care what you do for a living. They just want mom." And she reflects on the lessons she learned from her late Uncle Johnny, whose love of house music and fashion influenced her greatly and led her to pay tribute to the queer community and ballroom culture.

As she was with the concert tour, Blue Ivy is the breakout star in the film, too. In addition to moments of Blue hilariously offering her mother unsolicited opinions and advice on her show, we also learn the backstory of how the pre-teen ended up joining her mother on stage for what quickly became an iconic dance breakdown. It turns out Blue only got the green light from her mom to join the show after committing to rehearsing. When she read negative comments criticizing her early performances on social media, instead of choosing to give up, the 11-year-old chose to work even harder. The scene is so poignant, it led our theater to loud whistles and impressed, whooping cheers for Ms. Blue Ivy Carter — and a tear or two from this here viewer.

If you've made it this far, I know what you're thinking: This essay was very clearly written by a card-carrying member of the Beyhive. No spoiler alert needed — it was. So it's hard for me to have any critiques of “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé.”

Beyoncé performs onstage during the “RENAISSANCE WORLD TOUR” at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 30, 2023 in London, England. Kevin Mazur / WireImage

But if I had to pick something, I would point out that Bey is no stranger to concert documentaries. From "Live at Roseland: Elements of 4" to "HOMECOMING: A Film by Beyoncé” which chronicled her historic Coachella headlining performance, her concert films follow a similar format, blending concert scenes with documentary.

I was still holding on to hope that maybe, just maybe, this movie might veer in a different direction by including those long-awaited visuals for the album. But alas, it looks like we will have to remain the visuals, baby.

Still, unlike any films she's done before, the singer's latest production stands apart in its breathtaking visuals. The "Renaissance World Tour" was made for people to feel "liberated," as Ms. Knowles-Carter put it — and it succeeded. But it was also made for the big screen.

And I, for one, am grateful that thanks to this film, all of us will forever be able to return to this safe space, ready to be reborn each and every time.