The Reel Review
This Netflix documentary details the life and death of blonde bombshell Anna Nicole Smith, starting with her childhood as Vickie Lynn Hogan in the tiny Texas town of Mexia (pronounced muh-HEE-uh), her marriage at 17 to a local fry cook and the birth of their son a year later. It then charts her meteoric rise, first as a Houston stripper, then as a Playboy and Guess jeans model and wife of an 89-year-old billionaire oil tycoon, prior to her 2007 death from a drug overdose near Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Writer/director Ursula Macfarlane (director of the 2019 Harvey Weinstein documentary Untouchable) uses archival footage, photos and interviews with family, friends – including a former strip club co-worker who claims she was Anna Nicole’s first girlfriend – and even Anna Nicole herself in the film. It paints the portrait of a woman smart enough to know that her stunning good looks, which caused men to flock behind her as a teenager while walking through shopping malls, would open career doors for her, only to be tripped up by an addiction to prescription pain meds that began from a painful boob job in 1990.
The depressing film certainly portrays Smith in a complex light. On one hand it seems that at least initially, she truly loved her 89-year-old billionaire husband, despite recorded phone messages prior to his death that indicate a drug-addled Smith later treated him as little more than an ATM for her lavish spending habits. The film also shows that Anna Nicole’s claims of an abusive childhood were likely largely fabricated, despite a surreal reunion with her birth father and half-brother that ends on a stomach-churning note. Those unfamiliar with Smith’s life story may find this all-too-familiar, tragic tale interesting, and the visuals of Mexia are fascinating, but fans will be disappointed that it doesn’t provide more insight into the enigmatic beauty.
• Dannielynn Birkhead, Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter with Larry Birkhead, is 16 and lives with her father in Louisville, Kentucky. Between his career as a photographer and real estate investor and her late mother’s estate, they have a fortune of $3 million.
• Anna Nicole Smith’s first husband, Billy Wayne Smith, was last seen at a 2007 memorial for their son Daniel who died the year before from an accidental drug overdose.
• Anna Nicole Smith is buried alongside her son Daniel at Lakeview Memorial Gardens cemetery in Nassau, The Bahamas.
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