- Directed by Lana Wilson
- April 3, 2023
The story of Brook Shields and the dangers and triumphs of her career.
As an overview of the career of Brooke Shields, Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields is pretty good. It reminds us of the phenomenon she was when she came on the scene. There was a time when you said the name ‘Brooke Shields’ and everybody knew who she was. They knew something about her career or maybe even her life. She came up at a time when the title of ‘celebrity’ meant something. This was in the days before TikTok or YouTube or Facebook and if you were a celebrity you were genuinely famous. You were known by millions and not just a handful of followers.
We get a good look at her life and her loves. This also discusses how essentially she was chewed up and spit out by the media. It points out the unsurprising predatory nature of some of the men in the beauty and entertainment business. Seriously. If you go into entertainment or the general beauty bit, expect to encounter tons of men who are in it to have sex either willingly or through rape with the most beautiful women on the planet. That she might be exploited never occurred to Brooke’s mother or she never cared.
Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields tries to connect Brooke Shields problems to larger cultural issues. That’s a little hit or miss for me. While what happened to her is a symptom of things such as misogyny and some man’s need to control women, it’s not necessarily a commentary on society at large. Rather it shines a light on just the narrow section of society she dealt with in her career. That attempt in this docuseries felt a bit narcissistic on her part.
Speaking of Brooke Shields’s career, I do need to bring up her appearance on Friends. They showed a very brief clip of it, and I was honestly blown away. She plays the crazy girlfriend of Joey. Crazy girlfriends in comedy are a dime a dozen but she was fantastic and in the few seconds worth they show of her she was completely unhinged but in a hilarious way. How this led to Suddenly Susan I don’t know because having seen that show it certainly didn’t play into the comic ability she demonstrated in her appearance on Friends. An unfortunate reality that some who have that ability (Nicole Kidman for example) very rarely get to use it.
And they don’t shy away from Brooke’s mother here either. But her mother does get a bit of a pass more often than not. And I can certainly understand that. Not that I think her mother is innocent of how the situation is and at points the exploitation of her daughter, but considering Brooke Shields’s involvement in this and that she clearly still does love her mother despite it all, she’s not going to put heavy blame on her mother. Some of that blame gets put onto their general situation as Brooke was the sole breadwinner of the family and her mother’s issues blamed upon her alcoholism.
The focus isn’t just on her career. They touch on her personal life. We get an exploration of her romances with Dean Cain, Andre Agassi, and her current husband with whom she has a family. And from there it touches on her postpartum depression. It is a Hollywood life but not an A List Hollywood life.
I had forgotten about it, but they even reminded me of that whole weirdness with Michael Jackson. He at one point was claiming a relationship with Brooke Shields. To her credit, she doesn’t shy away from the topic, but she made it clear there was no relationship. I was left with the feeling Jackson was trying to deflect from his own issues that were becoming obvious to the world at large.
All of this is brought to life through interviews with friends and footage from back in the day. I was particularly moved by the segment with the man who handled her security Gavin de Becker. Of all the people they talk to he showed the most emotion and that came when discussing her rape at the hands of an unidentified entertainment executive. There is the part of me that wishes she had named names, but there is a part of me that understands for legal reasons she cannot. True or not, if she had then most likely Hulu would’ve dropped the release of the documentary like a hot potato and she would’ve been getting sued.
They didn’t seem to spend a heavy amount of time on the film Pretty Baby from which this documentary gets its title. Anybody remember the controversy surrounding Cuties? I was heavily reminded of that here. Not that I think the controversy of Cuties was undeserved, but rather it seems that the entertainment industry has learned nothing when it comes to heavily sexual films involving children.
Given the description of the film, which I have not seen and probably never will, I’m curious why anybody participated in Pretty Baby. I can’t even understand why Brooks mother would allow her to be involved in this money or not. Alcoholism or not, it seems so wrong to let cameras roll on the script. It is pointed at as the beginning of her sexualization but not framed as creepy as it looked.
As a whole Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields is a very good documentary on not only Brooke Shields but everything surrounding her. I certainly fault it for its attempt to connect her to larger cultural issues. To make it feel as if what happened to her was some evil plot rather than a symptom of things. There is some good emotion here and it’s interesting. It’s immensely fascinating.
Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields is something I simply turned on to break up the monotony of my murder documentaries, but it quickly sucked me in. Brooke Shields was a phenomenon unlike anything else before. If you want to be taken back to a time when celebrity meant something as well as the dangers of fame this is certainly worthy of checking out. While not great it is very good.