Review: “This Is Paris”

Year: 2020
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Director: Alexandra Dean
Stars: Paris Hilton

By Mique Watson

“That’s hot.” Need I say anything else? This is a phrase that belongs to Paris Hilton, a woman whose name alone has sold oceans of perfume, mountains of skin care products, and a lifestyle of obscene materialism. Paris is the first woman — perhaps ever — to be famous for merely being, er, famous. We all know her to be both an heiress and the great-granddaughter of esteemed hotelier Conrad Clinton. But “This Is Paris,” a YouTube Originals-produced documentary, attempts to pull back the curtain and introduce us to Paris as Paris.

And what do we end up learning? Well, for a start, we are made privy to her voracious need to work and make money, and her inability to maintain a steady relationship. Also an actor and former reality-TV star, she is an insomniac whose brain never stops and who seems to be searching for love in all the wrong places.

Her bank account may be larger than 99% of the planet, but her vices are not uncommon.

It’s not difficult to imagine how a life of fame and glamour is one so demanding and soul-sucking; it’s a life where one is surrounded by yes-men, vice, and an inability to pause and exercise introspection. It’s a life of harassment and unfair treatment by the media.

We already knew that. What we didn’t know, thanks to esteemed documentarian Alexandra Dean (“Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story”), was that Paris’ nightmares and shortcomings can all be traced back to one peculiar event in her life. This would be an eleven-month stay at Provo Canyon School, a place now mired in controversy. 

Paris Hilton in “This Is Paris”

Hilton’s early life of “Stepford Wives”-esque schedules, forced etiquette, and utmost control pushed her to youthful rebellion. Nightclubs, fake IDs, alcohol — you name it. One thing led to another, and this landed her in Provo. The details of her stay here are admittedly shocking. The lines of discipline and abuse were blurred — abuse was normalized, and fear was weaponized. This is, by far, the most interesting part of the documentary. However, while its details help viewers connect some dots as to why Paris has developed the way she has, it ultimately raises more questions than answers.  

The rest of the film’s insights are nothing that Sofia Coppola and David Lynch haven’t already covered in other works. “This Is Paris” makes viewers wonder what kind of freedom there is for a woman in an industry that places so much value in how she looks and acts, an industry that capitalizes on an illusion. An illusion that inevitably convinces its consumers that these delusions of grandeur and materialism mean everything and that genuine human connection should be an afterthought. An illusion that encourages living for the cheap thrills of the moment, no matter what the consequences are. 

“This Is Paris” makes viewers wonder what kind of freedom there is for a woman in an industry that places so much value in how she looks and acts, an industry that capitalizes on an illusion.

“It’s hard for me to be normal,” Paris utters at one point, which hardly surprises anyone. Her bank account may be larger than 99% of the planet, but her vices are not uncommon.

“That’s not me,” she says in response to everything we know about her: her nineteen product lines, her skin care, her makeup, the $13 billion her fragrance line has made in sales. It’s all an image, she asserts, for her meticulously constructed and professionally curated brand.

Although insightful, “This is Paris” falls slightly short of being truly revelatory. Shocking as it is at times, it’s also frustratingly mystifying in the end. But what do I know? This is, after all, Paris Hilton’s world, and we’re all just living in it. 

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