Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields Review – from exploited star to finding her true voice

By Emma Vine
Published: April 4, 2023 (Last updated: December 14, 2023)


Though a challenging watch, Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields is a soul-baring account of the former child star’s life and the darker side of fame.

We review the documentary film Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields, released on Hulu on March 3, 2023.

In the two-part documentary Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields, the former child star gets candid about her career, personal life, and navigating fame as a young child.

And though the actress was a role model to many, under the surface, she struggled with self-identity and finding her voice.

Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields Review and Plot Summary

Teri Shields knew her daughter would be in show business from an early age. At eleven months old, Brooke appeared in her first commercial for an Ivory soap ad and had a bright career ahead of her.

The rising star had no choice but to grow up quickly in the following years. As the daughter of divorced parents, she lived with her single mother and was their primary source of income. Brooke shared an undeniable bond with Teri, but her upbringing presented challenges.

Childhood friend and fellow actress Laura Linney, interviewed in the documentary, recounts some turbulent moments she witnessed as Teri battled alcoholism and the toll that took on Brooke.

As Brooke’s manager, Teri pushed her daughter further into the limelight, making controversial decisions about her career. In 1978, Brooke starred in Pretty Baby as a 12-year-old prostitute raised in a brothel. At the time, the actress was eleven years old, sharing her first on-screen kiss with her costar, who was sixteen years her senior.

The sexualization of young girls during the 70s and 80s is frustrating and uncomfortable to watch. Hosts on public television even referred to Brooke as having a “great body” and being “an exquisite-looking young lady.”

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And the exploitation and objectification didn’t stop there. Teri sued Gary Gross for attempting to distribute nude photos he took of Brooke as a teen for a modeling shoot.

The fact that he didn’t face criminal charges and won the case is distressing and showcases a very different reality from the world we live in today. Unfortunately, many deflected blame onto Brooke. She should have been protected by the adults surrounding her, and the events that took place should never have been allowed to happen.

Brooke also gives a harrowing account of an unnamed director who sexually assaulted her during an arranged meeting to discuss an acting role with her that never existed. Though devastating, she bravely shares the incident with her fans, further demonstrating a darker side of Hollywood long before the #MeToo movement.

After feeling controlled by her mother for most of her life, Brooke’s marriage to tennis player Andre Agassi, though short-lived, gave her the strength to break her mother’s reigns and gain her independence.

From then on, the star pursued more comedic roles, even when those surrounding her insisted a woman couldn’t be beautiful and funny. In a more joyful moment of the documentary, Brooke reflects on meeting her husband, Chris Henchy. Twenty-one years later, the couple is still happily married and has two daughters together.

There’s no doubt that Brooke is grounded and hasn’t let fame go to her head. When it comes to documentaries about Hollywood stars, Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields is one of the most vulnerable out there.

Is Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields Good or Bad?

The material is presented well, with a humble and brave Brooke bearing her soul.

The documentary is good, but it’s difficult to watch and may be triggering for sexual assault victims.

Is Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields Worth Watching?

If you’re a Brooke Shields fan, this documentary is worth watching, but the subject matter is challenging.

I wanted to jump onto the television screen and save Brooke from all the exploitation she experienced, especially from adults, the very people who are supposed to protect children.

What did you think of the Hulu documentary Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields? Comment below.

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