In the current wave of documentaries demanding justice for the tragic blondes of the Nineteen Nineties – Britney Spears, Princess Diana and Pamela Anderson amongst them – it’s unsurprising to discover a new movie about Anna Nicole Smith subsequent within the queue.
Anna Nicole: You Don’t Know Me, a Netflix manufacturing directed by Ursula Macfarlane, revisits the lifetime of the titular mannequin and Playboy centerfold greatest recognized for marrying an octogenarian billionaire, then very publicly dropping all of it; in 2007, she was discovered lifeless in a Hollywood, Florida, Exhausting Rock lodge on the younger age of 39, having taken a poisonous combination of methadone, Valium and quite a lot of sedatives. Diverging from the precedents set by the Britney and Diana movies, nevertheless, this new documentary treats Smith much less as a powerless sufferer of the media than the savvy protagonist of her personal story. “She was a hustler,” Macfarlane tells the Guardian. “She made issues occur on her personal phrases.”
Smith, born Vickie Lynn Hogan, started her life within the working-class, God-fearing city of Mexia, Texas. “She was born stunning,” says a voiceover from her late mom, a police officer named Virgie Mae Hogan, as she recollects reminiscences of grown males following her little one via the native shopping center. As an grownup, Smith hardly ever spoke of her childhood besides to say that she hated her abusive mom, and Macfarlane items collectively these early years with interviews along with her topic’s brother and her uncle. From a younger age, they are saying, Smith was rebelliously enterprising, fixated on gaining each consideration and cash. She dropped out of highschool to get a job at a fried rooster restaurant, the place at age 17, she married a co-worker who allegedly stored her locked inside the home. She gave beginning to her son Daniel to assuage her personal loneliness, then took off with him in pursuit of fame and fortune when he was six months outdated.
“She had an unbelievable work ethic,” recollects a former co-worker merely referred to as Missy who witnessed Smith on her early ascent to fame. Smith had modeled her Hollywood persona after the humor of Carol Burnett and the intercourse enchantment of Marilyn Monroe, and performed a file of Diamonds Are a Woman’s Greatest Good friend on her first Playboy photoshoot to assuage her camera-shyness. Later revealed to have been lovers, Missy and Smith had met working at a Houston strip membership referred to as The Government Suite, the place Missy initially although she was taking a gorgeous younger novice below her wing. She rapidly realized what turns into a recurring theme all through the movie: “Nobody wanted to offer her any tips on easy methods to entice a person … She doesn’t want quite a lot of assist manipulating anyone.”
Smith first met the billionaire oil tycoon J Howard Marshall on the strip membership in 1991, when he was 86 years outdated and he or she was solely 23. Media remedy of their relationship had offered Smith as an opportunistic gold digger in Macfarlane’s thoughts, however in the course of the film-making course of, “one of many issues that actually shocked me was that their relationship, whatever the distance in many years, was truly real,” the director says. “It was love, no matter love means, and it felt essential for us to set the file straight.”
The movie approaches Smith and Marshall’s relationship with a measured tenderness, providing montages of the couple’s private pictures and recordings of affectionate cellphone calls, plus dwelling motion pictures of loving exchanges between Marshall and Smith’s son. (As for a way the film-makers bought them, says producer Alexandra Lacey: “We are able to’t disclose the supply of these, I’m afraid.”)
The movie is basically sympathetic to the titular blonde bombshell, touching solely briefly on the unfavourable points of her marriage. “She was attending to the place she was not grateful to Mr Marshall, simply treating him like an ATM,” Missy says, recalling a change in Smith’s previously warm-hearted character as she developed an dependancy to painkillers. Footage of a tearful Smith testifying her love for her late husband resounds with a heartfelt authenticity, significantly as a result of she was recognized for her poor appearing abilities: “It wasn’t a sexual, ‘Child oh child I like your physique’ kind of affection. It was a deep ‘thanks’ for taking me out of this gap, and ‘thanks for saving my life’.”
Marshall’s loss of life in 1995, simply 14 months after their marriage ceremony, marks an inflection level within the movie the place Smith’s upward trajectory rapidly turns right into a downward spiral. Regardless of the majority-woman jury, she misplaced her extremely publicized authorized battle over her late husband’s $1.6bn fortune to his son, Pierce Marshall. “She didn’t lose as a result of she was a gold digger,” says Pierce’s lawyer Rusty Hardin. “She misplaced due to who she was.” Marshall had spent an estimated whole of $14m on Smith hoping that it might be sufficient to assist her after his loss of life. On the witness stand, she described bills “that the common particular person would discover ludicrous”, Hardin provides. “It didn’t matter if it was alcohol or intercourse or medication or meals, she was a glutton”
Regardless of Macfarlane’s makes an attempt to painting Smith as a sympathetic character, the remainder of the movie unfolds as chaotically and cringe-inducingly because it did in actual life, from her short-lived actuality TV present, to the custody battle over her toddler daughter, to the tragedy of her son Daniel’s deadly drug overdose. With out the PR and administration infrastructure Marshall had put in place for her, Smith’s profession devolved right into a sequence of clownish, visibly drug-addled public appearances.
“All through her life, she tried to be what she thought different individuals wished her to be,” producer Alexandra Lacey says. Consequently, Smith additionally turned out to be a totally unreliable narrator; her tales of childhood abuse had been truly stolen from Missy’s life with the intention to garner consideration and sympathy.
The actual Anna Nicole Smith is a determine of many contradictions, says Macfarlane, “and we’re grateful to have had the time and the house to dig down and pull out all of the nuances of somebody who’s extraordinarily complicated”. Whereas her movie presents few revelations about its topic, the director values the chance to revisit the tabloid period of the 90s “with contemporary eyes”.
“If [Smith] had been forging her narrative at the moment, I actually like suppose that she’d be dwelling a joyous social media life the place she was answerable for the narrative,” Macfarlane says. “Within the post-#MeToo world, I need individuals watching this movie to come back away with extra empathy and fewer judgment.”