“Pretty Baby,” a two-part documentary about the intense highs and lows of American icon Brooke Shields, brought the house to its knees with its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday.
The doc explores Shields’ appalling sexualization from the age of 9, the top-level modeling and acting career that followed, and the urgent conversations she inspires about what society expects of women.
Directed by Lana Wilson (Taylor Swift’s “Miss Americana”), “Pretty Baby” confronts milestones in Shields’ life that, in a post #MeToo world, shocked audiences at Park City’s Eccles Theater. Pre-pubescent nude photo shoots, male talk show hosts asking if 12-year-old Shields enjoys being a sex symbol, the horrors of an alcoholic mother and manager, and Shields’ high-profile public fights with the likes of Tom Cruise all lie on the table.
“I have always made it an important part of my journey to be as honest as possible. Not only to the outside world, but also to myself,” Shields said during a Q&A after the premiere of the doc, receiving a standing ovation. “I didn’t want to be shut down. The industry I’m in incites you to be shut down. I didn’t want to lose from that.”
An interesting mix of heads from her life populate the Doctor to offer insights. Childhood friend Laura Linney, Lionel Richie, Ali Wentworth and Security Czar Gavin de Becker all make an appearance. Drew Barrymore, sitting cross-legged and barefoot on a stool, confirmed the confusion and difficulties associated with child stardom. A particularly cringy moment came during a section on ‘Blue Lagoon’, the historical film about virile teenagers in love on a deserted island. Director Randal Kleiser, the Doctor claims, was actively building a story in the press that Shields became sexually mature with her character in real time.
“They wanted to turn it into a reality show,” Shields said. “They wanted to sell my sexual awakening.”
Perhaps, the work suggests, this is why Shields broke her sweltering career streak to attend Princeton University.
Brooke insisted on having agency over her head, over her career, over her future. I thought it was remarkable and very contemporary in so many ways,” Wilson told the audience.
Throughout her adulthood, Shields describes her attraction to a figure she claimed to be just as “controlling” as her own mother — the tennis star Andre Agassi, who she says was wracked with jealousy as she broke out on sitcoms like “Friends” and “Suddenly”. Suzanne The battles were not all private.
After marrying his current husband Chris Henchy, Shields struggled with conception. After many attempts, she gave birth to daughter Rowan and immediately fell into an unknown and extreme depression. In 2005, she wrote the book Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression.
At the same time that Shields was promoting the book, Tom Cruise was doing the rounds for his Steven Spielberg-directed action movie “War of the Worlds.” Cruise, the most famous member of the Church of Scientology who rejects therapy and prescription drugs, publicly went after Shields for promoting antidepressants. He even went so far as to call her “dangerous.”
In the document, Shields described the incident as “ridiculous.”
During one scene of the documentary, the camera zooms in on the headline “What Tom Cruise Doesn’t Know About Estrogen,” from a New York Times op-ed she wrote in response to Cruise. The Eccles applauded with delight, and did so again after actor Judd Nelson quoted his friend Shields at the time, “Tom Cruise should stick to fighting aliens.”