Home » Pam & Tommy Review – Glamour, Scandal and Questions of Ethics

Pam & Tommy Review – Glamour, Scandal and Questions of Ethics

by Yasmine Kandil
Sebastian Stan as Tommy Lee makes devil horns with one hand while holding Lily James as Pamela Anderson with the other as waves crash behind them on the beach as seen in the new Hulu miniseries PAM & TOMMY.

Depending on your age, famed actress Pamela Anderson and rockstar Tommy Lee’s notorious relationship in the public eye may be a bit of a blur. However, Hulu’s new miniseries Pam & Tommy is now bringing their scandal back into the limelight almost two decades later. To this day, Anderson is best known for her time on the renown television show Baywatch. Tommy Lee, on the other hand, is recognized as the drummer for heavy metal band Mötley Crüe. Not even counting their infamous sex tape, the pair’s story is still a wild ride.

Ever since Sebastian Stan first revealed his transformation alongside co-star Lily James on his Instagram last May, Pam & Tommy has been the talk of the town, drawing in audiences passionate about the talented couple. Now, the wait for the series to debut is nearing its end with the first three episodes due to release on February 2nd, followed by weekly releases.

The miniseries format is a perfect length for this eight episode biopic. Pam & Tommy takes its time on every story beat without rushing, while doing a commendable job of submersing the audience into the distant days of the 90s. This love story turned scandal begins just before the couple meet on a drunken night out and follows their relationship through their wedding four years later and on to what most people want to know about their most, the leaking of their private “homemade” adult video.

Lily James as Pamela Anderson shows Sebastian Stan as Tommy Lee a physical copy of their leaked sex tape while Mötley Crüe takes a break from recording in a music studio as seen in the new Hulu miniseries PAM & TOMMY.
Sebastian Stan & Lily James in ‘Pam & Tommy’ courtesy of Hulu

The tape was stolen by an electrician named Rand Gauthier as he robbed their home in retaliation of the way Lee treated him. The two plot lines temporarily diverge as Gauthier seeks out a way to distribute the tape and the couple remain oblivious that they had even been robbed until shortly before their intimate moments are sold for profit. Between these revolving tones of drama, comedy and pure raunchiness, the show’s narrative is gripping, always cohesive and rarely tedious. For those who aren’t too familiar with the sequence of events, there may be one or two unexpected twists and turns involved.

Lily James and Sebastian Stan give career-best performances as these eccentric icons, displaying indisputable chemistry. Their acting is aided by their outstandingly accurate makeovers which transform them into the titular individuals. For Seth Rogen, this is a much more complex role in comparison to his typical comedic outings. While his storyline does involve a fair amount of comedy, it also leans into strong elements of anger and fustration. He continues to prove that he is a performer able to find his footing in more than one genre or playing field, creating a compelling character.

Pam & Tommy touches upon the severe impact that the scandal had on Anderson as a woman and how it altered her reputation, as well as her career, in a different manner to her husband’s. This sentiment makes for a good effort, although it can’t help but feel hypocritical in the grand scheme of things. Pamela Anderson and her loved ones have been clear throughout the making of Pam & Tommy that she had not given permission for this portrayal of her private life to be put into production. Anderson’s close friend Courtney Love went further on to say that the show’s development had been causing her “complex trauma” as she is now forced to relive memories from a harsh time in her life.

This ultimately poses the question of just how ethical unauthorized biographical entertainment really is? Regardless if Pam & Tommy is quite enjoyable, it does feel uncomfortable at times to remember that this series is profiting off a woman’s hardship when the protagonist of the biopic has not only no involvement in the production, but has also publicly opposed it.

Despite this, it is hard to deny how well made Pam & Tommy is. It makes for some top quality television that is elevated even higher with its award-worthy performances. The only major flaw lies in the slightly sour taste left when pondering the questions of authorship and morality that are posed as a result of the show’s existence.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Pam & Tommy premieres on Hulu February 2

Follow Senior Film Critic Yasmine Kandil on Twitter: @byebyebucky

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