The folks behind Hulu’s “Pam & Tommy” have an idea of what you’re probably thinking about their subjects. As for those with no opinion — either because “Baywatch” and Mötley Crüe were before their time, or because somehow all the tabloid headlines inspired by the pair have passed alongside them – the first episode provides a succinct and easily damaging summary.
At first it leads you to believe that Pamela Anderson (Lily James) and Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan) have had it – “it” being the worldwide exposure of their honeymoon’s most intimate moments by way of a stolen videotape being leaked on the internet.
It’s the work of Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen), a carpenter and child’s play that Lee takes advantage of. We first meet him in “Pam & Tommy” as the eponymous couple loudly jump into an adjoining room, and he has to pretend to ignore their screams and moans as they drive nails into the custom built-in bed frame. that he creates for newlyweds. sex palace.
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Mötley Crüe drummer Lee is one of the biggest names in rock and roll. Anderson, who starred on “Baywatch” as lifeguard CJ Parker, hoped to turn her fame into more serious acting roles, proving she was capable of more than jerking off in a bathing suit.
But to Gauthier in 1995, she’s nothing more than spanking bank material, while Lee is just another impossible-to-please fool who keeps changing his mind about working without paying his workers.
Eventually, Lee fires Gauthier’s crew and stiffens them, causing Gauthier to exact revenge by fleeing with a safe from Lee’s garage.
This is how the first viral celebrity sex tape was thrust into the public sphere. Whether this reward was deserved is one that this wild story grapples with, as it also dissects who really pays the price for acts of revenge.
“Pam & Tommy” is a fun work in every sense of that description. He engages in his comedic highs with the same gritty energy he devotes to emotional lows, inviting us to ride the couple’s champagne and ecstasy-driven hedonism as he portrays their love, even realized at the haste, as genuine.
Like several retrospective examinations of events and people whose downfalls were salacious diversions in their time, the brouhaha sex tape is given a second look as one of the first tests of the internet as a proliferating force and a pioneering affair in matter of the right to privacy.
But where other works ripped from near-history like “Impeachment” fail to fully connect with the humanity of those involved, the soul of “Pam & Tommy” overflows with vulnerability and pathos. Their sex tape has become a phenomenon for crucial reasons besides its ease of access, the authors claim.
“I guess it should be disgusting – rich, debauched, famous people fucking on a boat,” says Gauthier’s ex-wife, Erica, played by Taylor Schilling, “but it’s…it’s …it’s…it’s, like…super healthy. It’s…romantic.”
This is precisely the selling point that Gauthier’s distribution partner, Uncle Miltie (Nick Offerman at his oily best), also sees. “It’s so…private. It’s like we’re seeing something we’re not supposed to see,” he says, “…that’s kind of what makes it so fucking sexy.” “
Although it initially loads our empathy scale to favor Gauthier’s side, the story humanizes all parts as it progresses. Gauthier, unsurprisingly, is a natural fit for Rogen, an actor who has made a career of compassionately playing misguided misfits, and who developed this series alongside his producing partner Evan Goldberg.
He sees Gauthier as a kind and naive spiritualist who sees an opportunity to get rich in his reckless action. But he doesn’t foresee how quickly the appeal and evolution of technology will shift exclusive control of the band beyond its reach, and become more of a liability than a boon once the mob shark (Andrew Dice Clay) who lends Gauthier and Miltie the money to get up and run tightens his leash.
Stan tries hard to move the needle on Lee from rock star caricature to a man rendered powerless by the circumstances that befell him, even if they are of his own making.
Deservedly, however, the person who garners the most sympathy in all of this is Anderson, whose career was effectively extinguished by the sex tape’s right-left hook combo and his star turn in the action bomb of 1996 “Barbwire”.
James’ portrayal is undeniably delicate and compassionate, defying the common ’90s portrayal of Anderson as a libidinous idiot. The storyline takes another point of view, showing how the producers of “Baywatch” sold Anderson short by denying her a chance to act, instead paying her to fight her way through the waves while she ran.
Once the sex tape circulates more widely than anyone could have anticipated, it’s her who points out that while her husband will only benefit from having his prodigious member exposed to the world, his image will be nothing but. further devalued. But none of the men understand – Tommy even less. “I’m on that tape too!” he insists whenever she demands a little more understanding than he’s willing to give.
These scenes make one wonder if the discourse that sprouted from our re-examination of Britney Spears and Janet Jackson finds its way to Anderson.
Even if it doesn’t, “Pam & Tommy” stirs up a lot of emotions, including hysteria and shock – simultaneously, at one point, thanks to a scene showing Lee having a long conversation with, shall we say Us, the unsung fifth Mötley Crüe member (immaculately voiced by Jason Mantzoukas).
The fact that Stan plays this scene mostly directly amplifies the amazement of seeing it unfold in front of us, creating a strange emotional combination of disbelief and appreciation. I can honestly say that I never expected a show to go this far. At the same time, this scene is entirely in line with our concept of a guy who takes immense pride in having the biggest pig in rock and roll.
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Stan and James deserve all the credit for their persuasive performances, and not just because of the makeup and wardrobe magic that makes them lookalikes of Lee and Anderson in their prime. Certainly, accessories help. But the best wigs and tattoos can only take audiences so far seeing Lee, a man dripping with sleaze, as a short-term jerk who is honestly and obviously in love with his wife.
Stan and James’ chemistry is white-hot, and in a story like this, that’s a non-negotiable requirement. The real Pam and Tommy have been a volatile sight from the start, starting with their marriage after a drug-fuelled four-day court and going through legal troubles that include domestic abuse charges to which Lee has not pleaded in any way. But they also reunited for a short time after their 1998 divorce, proof that what they had together was real, no matter how long it lasted.
Perhaps the strangest legacy of this whole affair involves the realization of just how much popular culture and social media owe to the realm of celebrity sex tapes. If not for Paris Hilton, would anyone have cared about “The Simple Life,” the show that made her a household name? Would Kardashian’s name have any cachet without her brush with X-rated infamy?
Now think of all the trends that were born with these two: the selfie, the handbags, the contouring, the thong heels, the public awareness and/or the emotional investment in Kylie and Caitlyn Jenner, for n’ to name a few.
That’s not to say that having their most intimate moments made public without their consent is a good thing; no matter how cunning their PR teams and momagers shot these incidents, it was still a violation of their privacy. (There’s another bizarre connection, too, thanks to Anderson’s connection to Rick Solomon, the man who leaked Hilton’s tape, and whom she married and divorced twice.)
Still, these are examples of why no one ever wants to be the first of a guy – even though, as one porn producer points out, compromising photos and sex films featuring celebrities have been around since inception. of Hollywood. The difference, “Pam & Tommy” argues through a furious Lee, is “it’s our fucking love on this tape.” That’s what makes it so hard to look away – not that you want to.
The first three episodes of “Pam & Tommy” are currently available on Hulu. New episodes premiere on Wednesdays. Watch a trailer for the series below, via YouTube.
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