‘Anna Nicole Smith: You Don’t Know Me’ Review: A Bleak Bombshell Study

Throughout her all-too-brief life, Anna Nicole Smith performed a wide range of roles on display and off, figuring out as somebody totally different to everybody in her orbit. Even her identify was a part of a manufactured persona, carved from the identical marble as Marilyn Monroe — an aspirational idol of hers. The buxom blonde bombshell represented the dynamic vary a lady’s identification may span, from the saintly (spouse, mom, lady subsequent door) to the sinful (unique dancer, calculating gold digger, tabloid-courting sensation). Born Vickie Lynn Hogan, she swapped her small-town woes for a ticket to stardom as a Playboy Playmate, Guess Jeans pinup lady and glamorous film star: a strolling, speaking billboard for trend, intercourse and, later, extreme misfortune.

Director Ursula Macfarlane’s “Anna Nicole Smith: You Don’t Know Me” faucets into the notion that, whether or not we beloved or despised her, the notorious celeb from the ’90s and early aughts was placing on an act, enjoying right into a self-created character she thought she may management — till an insatiable starvation for fame and fortune swamped her different ambitions. This Netflix documentary captures each her kindheartedness and her murkier complexities because it strives to find out why she hid her true identification from everybody, together with herself. However, it finally results in the irritating conclusion that we’ll by no means know the true Anna Nicole, not least as a result of, since her premature passing in 2007, she’s now not round to take again her autonomy. We’re given solely an impression of the topic from those that knew her — or, not less than, the chameleonic thought of her — and from the heightened, vivacious model of herself she selected to indicate on digital camera.

To glean perception into Smith’s psyche, Hogan takes a reasonably conventional strategy, portraying her foibles by a lens each compassionate and significant, puzzling collectively items of her life captured in private {and professional} images, in addition to completely curated information and residential video footage. The blueprint for Smith’s home of playing cards is drawn early on, illustrating an empowered, attention-seeking brunette-gone-platinum-blonde, following her desires to turn into a family identify. This journey took her out of an oppressive, lonely marriage (one she escaped by having a child for firm), abandoning her given identify and all the luggage that went with it. It led her right into a world she ran on her personal phrases, as she reinvented herself two extra instances, first as “Nicky” and later as “Anna Nicole Smith.” Yet with the identify modifications got here character-defining challenges. Some, corresponding to profession obsolescence, she was capable of surmount; others, corresponding to a prescription drug dependency, led to her psychological unravelling.

Talking-head-style interviews from Smith’s mates, household and enterprise associates add context and readability to milestones like her first Playboy shoot, the place a file of Monroe singing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” calmed her jittery nerves, and a Sapphic fling together with her confidante “Missy” (who, considerably sarcastically in a movie about uncovering personae, doesn’t reveal her actual identify).

Overarching themes of identification and betrayal are tied to the litany of males in her life. Some had no agenda, like her beloved son Daniel (who involves symbolize the demise of her hopes and desires), and her billionaire husband J. Marshall Howard (who genuinely beloved her and vice versa). Others sought to use her, just like the ruthless paparazzi, her pompadour-sporting organic father Donald, and slippery physician Sandeep Kapoor. The movie strives to construct sympathy for Smith, but in addition insinuates that she used her magnificence and naiveté as weapons — and two of the interviewees describe her as manipulative.

Though Macfarlane doesn’t strictly adhere to them, title playing cards demarcating time and place assist to root in historical past the occasions that befell Smith, together with flashy graphics of the attention-grabbing headlines she impressed. Those who lived by the period the place society’s scrutiny of Smith dominated the information will bear in mind a lot of her sordid shenanigans with out such prompts: Her inheritance trial for her marriage to Marshall appeared endless. We can nonetheless hear the echoes of her slurred speech presenting Kanye West — now going by a reevaluation of his personal — with an American Music Award. A pal reveals that her staggering weight reduction wasn’t simply because of her contract with a diuretic (“TrimSpa, baby!”), but in addition due to an consuming dysfunction. Viewed in hindsight, these anecdotes conjure empathy and foreboding. Smith’s first try to shun the highlight, hiding out in a brand new pal’s Malibu bungalow, resonates as an unanswered cry for assist.

However, it appears pointless to rehash all these acquainted occasions with little new data. The movie tries to have it each methods, criticizing the media’s lurid fascination with Smith’s loud life whereas celebrating it on the identical time. This contradictory depiction leaves the icon as enigmatic as ever, making it unlikely that it’ll deliver consolation or closure to the individuals who beloved her. Smith’s daughter is now 16, and possibly gained’t discover any solutions about her mom right here.

Despite its efforts to current a well-rounded portrait of this decided starlet, the movie finally seems like a glossier, barely much less salacious iteration of an “E! True Hollywood Story,” interesting primarily to those that relish tragic tales of the wealthy and well-known. Although it affords a subtly stinging condemnation of celeb voyeurism, it’s not sufficient to make that gut-punch land with drive, and even appears responsible of the exact same factor.

Unlike “Pamela, A Love Story,” which confirmed Smith’s fellow Playmate Pamela Anderson taking command of her personal narrative and baring her reality to the world, Macfarlane’s doc is tainted by the lies Smith cleverly crafted to psychologically guard herself towards previous and future trauma — which rained down regardless. Perhaps the reality is that she was an advanced girl with many self-created issues. But with its few late-developing revelations relegated to the ultimate minutes, it’s nearly as if we are able to hear Anna’s voice saying the documentary’s subtitle — as a taunt, not an invite to get to know her in any significant approach.

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