This documentary is a smartly packaged, news-making walk down memory lane -- or an introduction to a pivotal public figure of the late 1900s, depending on your age. While the sources tapped for Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields tell solely Shields' side of the story (as viewers will have come to expect from similar subject-approved documentaries), the editing keeps the film engaging and interesting.
The documentary is presented in two one-hour segments, split between childhood and adulthood, but can be watched as a single film. In it, Shields reveals events from her past, such as a sexual assault (she doesn't name names), and she describes her own feelings today about that time.
An end scene introduces her husband and two daughters (an unusual moment in a film to bring in new voices, but it works), listening as the three women debate how teens posting bikini selfies to their social media feeds is different from Shields being made to pose nude at age 9, or how 20-something actors portray teens in sexy films today, unlike Shields' star turn at age 11 in a film about sex workers.
It concerns agency, which is a central theme to director Lana Wilson's story about Shields, who comes across as intelligent and reflective at age 57.
Shields describes how she had to mature early due to her unreliable, alcoholic mother, Teri, but how she also didn't develop real self-confidence and intellectual or emotional independence -- the belief that her own opinions mattered -- until much later. She portrays her first husband, tennis star Andre Agassi, as being just as controlling as her mother.
Through montages, Wilson positions Shields as a central character in shifting tendencies of her time, especially in terms of embodying the cultural shift in "sex symbols" from the voluptuous stars of 1950s-'60s Hollywood to pre-pubescent girls like Shields, which here is depicted as a reaction to the 1970s feminist movement. It also looks at elements of the 1980s-'90s shift toward conservatism as well as to "infotainment" -- such as when Shields' revelation about her virginity competed for headlines with the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Inappropriately fawning over Shields' juvenile beauty, the male interviewers, photographers, and directors (and Calvin Klein, who laughs at being a "bad boy" for knowingly sexualizing 15-year-old Shields in ads) come off the worst in this film.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.
Images courtesy of Hulu.