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Pamela, A Love Story review – Pamela Anderson looks back in all innocence | Movies

Gentle, friendly, faintly bleary – and sans makeup – Pamela Anderson is an authentically likable screen presence in this intimate, if somehow elusive, documentary portrait from Ryan White; it is about her life and times and the super-strength misogyny she has faced from liberals and satirists in the long endgame of her celebrity career. (This, incidentally, is yet another documentary which shows how very badly talkshow monologues can date.)

Anderson is interviewed at her lakeside property in Canada, musing wryly and shrewdly about the media, often hanging out on camera with her two grownup sons who are fiercely fond and protective. The movie uses her sweetly innocent diaries (from which Pamela reads softly) and her home videos with badass ex-husband Tommy Lee, from which the notorious sex tape was pirated and sold, helping to fuel the world wide web in its early dial-up era.

We are taken through her backstory: her explosively tempered, proto-Tommy dad who was always fighting with her mom, her abuse and rape as a child, her sensational “discovery” in the crowd by the jumbotron camera at a football game, her Norma Jeane/Marilyn transformation into a blonde icon eerily unlike her former un-star self, her Playboy covers, her ascent to global celebrity on TV’s Baywatch, her marriage on the beach to Mötley Crüe drummer Lee after just four days’ acquaintance. And then the still unsolved theft of the honeymoon sex tape, which made them a global laughing stock, and which many male commentators took as their green light to convert the lechery into hate (but perhaps it was always hate).

This documentary shows that she had to contend with obnoxious abuse (including physical abuse) throughout her life. TV comics and pundits thought they were punching up, including the reliably boorish and objectionable Larry King. Anderson is candid about the string of failed marriages and relationships she endured – although we don’t hear about the one with Jon Peters – and says they were all a desperate attempt to recapture the rocket-fuelled excitement of that first, gloriously romantic and outrageous wedding to Lee.

And as for that sex tape, Pamela angrily says she never made a dime out of it and rejects the theory that she somehow was behind the leaking. I believe her, but I’d like to see some closer questioning of Lee on this point. As for the rest of it, such as her friendship with Julian Assange … well she hasn’t much to say about that, or if they are still in touch. Her campaign work for Peta? Audacious and admirable, but it isn’t clear if she’s still involved.

Anderson finally gets cast in Chicago on Broadway as Roxie Hart and does very well. She’s a really good dancer, and there’s redemption there, of a sort. Will she carry on in musical theatre? That would be a great move: she deserves happiness, and perhaps this would bring it to her.

Pamela, A Love Story is released on 31 January on Netflix.

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