Robbie Williams Netflix review: An addict who can’t seem to walk away from fame

Robbie Williams, Netflix

Robbie Williams is unfortunate to suffer from a number of addictions, but fame seems to be the hardest one for him to shake.

He’s fallen off the wagon a number of times but mostly keeps the demons of drink and drugs at bay. However, he continues to seem unable to turn his back on celebrity.

Some sections of this four-part documentary are difficult to watch as the one-time boyband star falls into an alcohol and cocaine stupor and struggles to take any pleasure from his enormous success.

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In those times, it’s clear to all around him that he needs to immediately quit the drink and drugs, but there doesn’t seem to be a possibility of giving up the entertainment business.

Rather, we see him try and make it in America as he complains that it’s the only place in the world where he’s not a star.

He’s got buckets of money so that’s not the reason.  He probably wants to prove to the rest of Take That that he’s a bigger success than them, but that game seems to be measured by star power.

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A little later, Williams realises that the US might be a good place to get away from media intrusion, but then he comes home to be a judge on The X Factor and is now starring in a Netflix series on the pain in his life.

The series is well-named because it’s almost four hours of Robbie on Robbie.  There are no outside commentators, no ex-Take That members or friends.

And for some bizarre, unexplained reason, Robbie does the interviews lying on his bed in his underpants.

Nobody, not even Robbie Williams in his pomp, looks good in Y-fronts.  So other than his need for attention, there’s no clear explanation. 

Perhaps it’s a parody on the Rock DJ video, where he rips himself apart to try and entertain the crowd. 

“I want to be writing Karma Police and I’m writing Karma Chameleon,” he says of the song he clearly believes is beneath him. 

He apologies for his treatment of Gary Barlow, accepting that he couldn’t take it that Gary was the most talented one. 

Years later, he breaks up with Guy Chambers after enormous success as a songwriting duo.  There’s no clear explanation of this, just a repeat viewing of a press conference at the time when Robbie says he’s irritated by the idea that Chambers was the creative leader of the duo. 

It’s curious also that we get no family information at all.  The documentary starts with Take That footage when Williams is 16. 

Then we get a tour though his career - from joining Take That, leaving at 21 and going on a year-long bender, hooking up with Guy Chambers to create some of Britain’s most loved songs, crashing a second time and meeting the wife that saved him. 

For a guy willing to bare all about this mental health, it’s threadbare on the key ingredients in a happy life - family, friends and the activities he enjoys away from music. 

He might be a bit self-obsessed, but Williams is likeable.  He’s talented, sharp, funny, often inciteful and his vulnerability is clearly genuine. 

It makes you wonder why he doesn’t walk away from the celebrity.   

It may be more difficult to sell lots of records without the PR, the TV and the tabloids but he can keep his music career and remain mostly in the shadows. 

It would be terrible to think that making a four-part documentary about himself and his troubles with celebrity is a continuity of his addiction to fame. 

It’s certainly got everyone talking about him again.