Star Rating:

Pamela, a love story 15

Streaming On: Watch Pamela, a love story on Netflix

Director: Ryan White

Actors: Pamela Anderson

Release Date: Tuesday 31st January 2023

Genre(s): Documentary

Running time: 112 minutes

There are more than a few moments in 'Pamela, a love story' where Anderson casually drops an entire news cycle worth of stories in a throwaway comment.

She cracks a joke about Sylvester Stallone offering her a condo and a Porsche if she'll be his "number one girl", to which she questions if there's a "number two girl". Stallone has, it must be said, denied this ever happened. Anderson laughs at her own romantic entanglements over the years, and her frequent marriages and divorces. By someone else's description, Anderson is the least calculating person on the planet. There really is no slyness or awareness in 'Pamela, a love story', nor is there any kind of acknowledgement of how she's perceived in the telling. As she sits for her interview, she wears no makeup and talks openly and candidly about her sex life, her failed marriages, and some of the darkest moments in her life.

She reveals that she was molested as a child by an adult woman, that her first boyfriend was physically and emotionally abusive, and that she dated a string of well-known celebrities throughout the late '80s and early '90s before she met Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee. Although the documentary was a direct response to 'Pam & Tommy', the Disney+ miniseries that retold the lurid story of her and Tommy Lee's sex tape, it occupies only a relatively small fragment of the story.

Anderson talks about the incident and the fallout, how she was hounded by the press, forced to recount private details of her sex life in court, how the media circus was just one more violation on top of another, and all of the casual sexism that pervaded the '90s - complete with clips of Jay Leno cracking an endless stream of crap jokes about her. As well as this, Anderson flatly refuses to even watch the miniseries as her son Brandon Lee talks about the opening episode.

It's fascinating, in a way, because that series pretty much recounts much of what Pamela Anderson said and felt through that period - that she wasn't taken seriously because she looked the way she did, nor was she entitled to privacy or dignity because she was a sex symbol. Obviously, nobody's saying Anderson has to watch the series or have anything to do with it, but it's funny to wonder if she would have made this at all in the first place if she had watched it.

Director Ryan White is a thoughtful interviewer, although it helps that Anderson has bought into the concept of being completely upfront. Likewise, White is no stranger to tackling lurid and sensational stories with a sharp eye. 2020's 'Assassins' was a fascinating examination of the murder of Kim Jong-Nam - Kim Jong-un's half-brother - by two unsuspecting women who thought they were taking part in a prank show. Like 'Assassins', White refuses to make judgments about his topic, but also doesn't leave a permission structure for the audience to do so either. It's essentially presenting the realities as they are by those who lived it with a kind of detachment.

What comes through in 'Pamela, a love story' is that Anderson is very much a woman in love with love, but is past all the bullshit of people's expectations. People can say and think what they want about her (and frequently do), but she's ultimately not in control of any of it. What might initially present itself as naivety is really a kind of hard-won sensitivity. If you get the face you deserve at 50, Pamela Anderson has hers at 55 and she looks terrific.