sat 25/05/2024

Pam & Tommy, Disney+ review - the infamous sex tape that went global | reviews, news & interviews

Pam & Tommy, Disney+ review - the infamous sex tape that went global

Pam & Tommy, Disney+ review - the infamous sex tape that went global

The exploitation of a historic episode of exploitation?

Is that really her? Lily James as Pamela Anderson

The transformation of Lily James, demure star of Yesterday, Cinderella and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, into smokin’ beach babe Pamela Anderson is the most memorable thing about Disney+'s uneven eight-part drama.

At its core is the stormy relationship between Anderson and Mötley Crüe’s drummer Tommy Lee which produced “the world’s most infamous sex tape”, as the 2014 Rolling Stone article upon which this is based described it.

The theft of the tape by disgruntled carpenter Rand Gauthier, after Lee apparently refused to pay him for what he considered unsatisfactory work on his lavish Los Angeles mansion, lights the blue touch paper on a weird, wild and frequently idiotic saga which explores Lee and Anderson’s athletic sex life in a spirit of cartoon-like ribaldry. In bed, in the bath or on a boat, they just can’t stop. Lee is played by Sebastian Stan as a gun-toting, thong-wearing, tattooed cave man (the word “MAYHEM” is etched across his stomach) who never met a primitive urge he felt the need to suppress, and even has a scene where he holds a conversation with his animatronic penis. The moment he claps eyes on Pam, the penis takes charge.

James’s Anderson is a marvel of prosthetics and makeup. She switches on like a giant floodlight in front of the lens, all dazzling teeth, glowing blonde hair and heaving cleavage. The series tell how she left her native British Columbia, became a favourite model with Hugh Hefner’s Playboy, and found international TV fame in Baywatch, but also tries a little too hard to give her a more interesting hinterland. When her superhero movie Barb Wire is about to be released, she delivers a monologue to her publicist about how she was inspired by Jane Fonda. “She was protesting Vietnam and selling workout tapes. She was being a feminist and a sex object… she never tried to please anybody.”

The real Anderson has indeed displayed different facets of her character, campaigning for assorted causes and striking up a friendship with Julian Assange, but Pam & Tommy never gets the balance right between titillation, satire and seriousness. The story of Gauthier, played by Seth Rogen as a dim no-hoper fixated on mysticism and a variety of religions, is allotted far too much time, though passages where Gauthier and squalid porn producer Uncle Miltie (Nick Offerman) try unsuccessfully to hawk the stolen tape round LA throw some bleakly comic light on the city’s thriving sex industry.

The theme of how the arrival of the internet, just getting established in the mid-Nineties, was the trigger for the Pam and Tommy tape to go global could make a film in its own right. The blatant sexism of the entertainment industry keeps cropping up, and the point that Anderson had far more to lose from the video than strutting, cocksure Tommy is shrewdly made, but having characters coming out with lines like “women are trained from birth to please men” feels like they were shoehorned in to deflect criticism that the series is merely exploiting a historic episode of exploitation. You’ll need plenty of stamina to get through all eight episodes.

  • Episodes 1-3 of Pam & Tommy are available on Disney+, with new episodes to follow weekly


I never heard about the original 'scandal', so why should i, or most folk, be interested in this?

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