- Running time:
- 135 minutes
- Hugh M. Hefner -
- James Caan -
- Tony Curtis -
- George Lucas -
- Bill Maher -
- Brigitte Berman
- Overall User Rating:
- (1 rating)
["Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel" premiered at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. The following is an excerpt from Metromix's coverage of the festival. The version of the film that screened was longer than the theatrical cut.]
Who can resist a peek inside the Playboy mansion? The new documentary “Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel” promises that and so much more. It offers up an in-depth look at the man who built the Playboy empire, and considering the loving portrait that filmmaker Brigitte Berman constructs you’d be forgiven for thinking she’s nominating Hef for sainthood.
We learn how Hefner was a tireless advocate for civil rights—inviting black artists on to his syndicated Playboy TV shows at a time when the media wasn’t very friendly to non-whites—as well as a champion for free speech, a vocal challenger of Hollywood’s blacklist of alleged communists and an influential crusader for women’s reproductive rights and sexual freedom for all. In his spare time he fights for the environment, supports film preservation and likes to play games. And, oh yeah, he also popularized the centerfold and maybe kinda sorta did some things that objectify women sexually.
Anything remotely controversial about Hefner and/or Playboy is entirely glossed over here. There’s some token commentary from feminist Susan Brownmiller (who famously sparred with Hefner on “The Dick Cavett Show”) but no serious challenge is mounted toward Playboy’s portrayal of women (which means Hefner never has to give a serious defense). We briefly hear that Hefner had trouble with the roles of father, boss, and husband/lover, but every time a topic like that comes up the film quickly shifts gears to something else. (Hefner’s ex-wife, Kimberly Conrad is not interviewed. The only person on screen who cops to being a former lover is Playmate Shannon Tweed, and she simply says she outgrew the wild lifestyle.)
One wonders what noted film buff Hefner must think—he’s gotta enjoy the glowingly positive perspective, but also must realize it doesn’t make for a very good film.