Pamela Anderson can be counted among a slew of human beings who have lived a life so singularly unique there’s no comparison to what they’ve endured. She is not the first sex symbol in Hollywood, but her experience can be counted as the first whose private life was exposed unapologetically for all the world to see in what was then a new enterprise in media broadcasting: the internet.
In the wake of the controversial, in-poor-taste Hulu series PAM & TOMMY, which recounted the upsetting events without her permission and through a comedic lens, Pamela Anderson has decided to take the reins of her narrative and tell the story in her own words in the new Netflix documentary PAMELA: A LOVE STORY.
The film documents the life of the star from childhood through her recent run as Roxy Hart in CHICAGO on Broadway last year. Utilizing decades of entries from the diaries she kept from a young age, the film gives insight into her journey from childhood on the small island of Ladysmith, British Columbia, to splashing across the covers of Playboy and eventually splashing across the beaches of Malibu in the television sensation BAYWATCH. The film also documents her relationships, particularly with Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee and their two sons, Brandon and Dylan.
The film excels in portraying a Pamela most people might never have taken the time to consider even actually exists: a real, introspective, emotional, and loving human being. Being sold through the media as a ditzy sexpot defined by blonde hair and breast implants, it’s beautiful to see her talk about her life herself for once rather than hearing it from snarky late-night talk show hosts and tabloid sensationalists.
There’s an emphasis on her strength, bravery, and ability to persevere, particularly through abuse and assault, and the devastating effects of her personal life being wrongfully exposed by the greedy, heartless paparazzi.
The documentary, directed by Ryan White, is well-assembled and engaging. It doesn’t drag, even at almost two hours in length. It’s the diary entries and home video footage that keeps the story feeling so real and honest. It’s remarkable to see the home video footage Pamela, herself, has decided to share with the world. Clips of her romance with Tommy, shots of her sons on birthdays or at karate class, and letters to her mother remind us that even the lives of celebrities have touches of what the rest of us call normalcy (whatever “normalcy” means). The movie humanizes a severely misunderstood and misrepresented public figure. The scenes with her sons, now grown and in their early twenties, are especially lovely. It’s clear her heart belongs to them, and they love their mother very, very much. While a constant theme of the film is Pamela’s perception of what love is throughout her lifelong search for it, it’s clear she’s found it in her children.
I was there at the Ambassador Theater for Pamela’s opening night in CHICAGO on Broadway. The role of Roxy Hart mirrors her own personal experience so closely it’s almost eerie. It was clear she’d worked very hard, and it paid off; she was engaging, funny, and sang and danced well—she was a joy to watch. I can say with honesty I’ve never heard a Broadway crowd erupt in as much cheer and applause as we did when Pamela made her entrance.
PAMELA: A LOVE STORY is available to stream on Netflix.