‘Pamela, a Love Story’ Review: A Frank Look Back

Are you ready for Pamela Anderson, ordinary person? Ryan White’s genuinely engaging documentary “Pamela, a Love Story” presents the sex symbol plain, wearing little if any makeup, dressed in a shift and a robe.

The story she tells is of a small-town girl — she was raised partly on an island in British Columbia — who endured abuse from an early age. Speaking of the babysitter who molested her, she says, “I told her I wanted her to die, and she died in a car accident the next day.” She attributed the turn of events to “magical powers.”

She did possess a kind of magic, being both very pretty and very photogenic. She was discovered via sports arena Jumbotron in 1989. After posing for Playboy magazine, she got famous before she was even vaguely ready for any such thing. “I’ve never sat across from an interview subject before and said, ‘May we talk briefly about your breasts?’” the interviewer Matt Lauer, of all people, states in an archival clip.

Anderson admits a longtime romantic predisposition toward “bad boys.” In the ’90s, when she was the bombshell star of “Baywatch,” she wed one of the baddest, the rock drummer Tommy Lee.

Her still indignant and hurt recollections concerning the couple’s infamous sex tape, which she has always insisted was stolen property, are bracing.

This star’s personality doesn’t veer into any ideology, let alone a feminist one. But when Anderson recalls being deposed by hostile lawyers while trying to shut down the marketing of the sex tape, she remembers thinking, “Why do these grown men hate me so much?” The collision of her good-faith lack of inhibition with institutionalized misogyny makes this Canadian’s biography a very disquieting American story.

Pamela, a Love Story
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 52 minutes. Watch on Netflix.

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