May 31, 2023

“Anna Nicole Smith: You Don’t Know Me,” a new documentary about the model, actress and 1990s tabloid sensation, follows a trend established by other non-fiction portrayals of démodé stars in recent years. released, such as “Britney vs Spears” and “Pamela, a love story.” These films, half biography, half haughty essay on media studies, are intended as a kind of pop-cultural corrections, deconstructing the popular image of celebrity by demonstrating (not unjustly) that their subjects were maligned and harshly misjudged in their time.

This movie’s director, Ursula Macfarlane, tries to show the real Smith – born Vickie Lynn Hogan and raised in Texas – through a combination of brutal archive news clips (The National Enquirer calls her “stupid,” Howard Stern mocks her weight ); moody, true-crime type B-roll; and interviews with Smith’s uncle, her brother, and her former bodyguard, plus a number of tabloid journalists, reality TV producers, and members of the paparazzi.

The interviews contained few insights. We hear both that Smith “craved attention” and “always liked to be the center of attention”. We learn that she sometimes acquired that attention through clever ways, pushing herself to superstardom through a public image she painstakingly crafted, and later drawing attention despite attempts to escape it, at the cost of her privacy and sanity. But the solemn exhumation of Smith’s life and death — she died of a drug overdose at age 39, in 2007 — ultimately, despite Macfarlane’s well-intentioned efforts, brings the film squarely into the realm of what it seeks to condemn. : lurid voyeurism. Smith’s controversial inheritance case, her daughter’s disputed paternity, her son’s tragic death: the film can’t help but sensationalize these events, even if it recounts them in a self-consciously plaintive register rather than a gaping one. Smith deserved better than how she was treated. And she deserves better than this.

Anna Nicole Smith: You don’t know me
Not judged. Running time: 1 hour 56 minutes. Watch on Netflix.