Review by Sean Boelman
Some of the most interesting stories are those of the storytellers themselves, and romance novelist Jackie Collins proves that trend. The new documentary Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story is fascinating thanks to how interesting its subject is, even if the execution is somewhat conventional.
The film tells the story of Jackie Collins, whose subversive writing led her to become an icon of feminism. The thing that is so crazy about Collins’s story is that it is almost as interesting, if not more so, than her work which created her fame. There are a lot of unexpectedly exciting moments in her life that make for a cinematic documentary.
As a portrait of a woman making her way up the ranks in a traditionally male-dominated field, the movie does a great job. The feminist aspects of this story are definitely those which are the most powerful, and as such, director Laura Fairrie chooses to focus on these elements over anything else.
However, this does come at the expense of some of the more subtle (and perhaps more profound) themes that the film could have explored. Collins’s work poses some interesting questions about sexual politics in the era in which she was most active, but that did not seem to be Fairrie’s priority.
Admittedly, the movie does stick with many of the conventions of the biographical documentary, but like so many of these profiles that are set to air on CNN, much of the film’s success hinges on how interested the viewer is in the subject. Thankfully, Collins’s story is interesting enough to carry a ninety-six minute runtime.
One of the things that the movie does lack is a deep exploration of Collins’s work. Interviewees talk about how subversive her work was, and give a phenomenal explanation of its impact, but perhaps in an attempt to keep everything in a cable-friendly TV-14 rating, there isn’t a whole lot of specificity to the content itself.
Fairrie tells the story mostly through interviews and archive footage. It’s a pretty straightforward way of presenting the information to the audience, putting this firmly in the biographical fluff piece portion of CNN Films’s output rather than the in-depth exposés that have been their bigger breakouts.
Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story isn’t an essential documentary by any means, but for what it is, it’s mostly entertaining. Perhaps without the restraints of a TV-14 rating, this could have been the fascinating exploration of the relationship between society and sex that it had the potential to be.
Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story airs on CNN at 9pm ET/PT on June 27.