‘This is Paris’ presents incomplete, dull image of Paris Hilton today

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Grade: 2.5/5.0 

“This is Paris” begins with Paris Hilton’s voice changing from her distinct high-pitched sound to a deeper one. She proceeds to ask herself, “How many voices do I have?” — a reference to who she is and the brand she represents. The documentary attempts to showcase the woman behind the character we know as Paris, but it never dives into her rise to fame, her controversies or her business empire. Instead, it shows a dull image of Hilton. From a rebellious teenage phase, to an exhausting work life and a drive to make money, Hilton is trying to figure it out, and she takes the viewer with her into a poorly constructed documentary.

Throughout “This is Paris,” there are several attempts to make her relatable or “normal” despite her wealthy background. Hilton’s mother, Kathy Hilton, claims her husband had to work because he did not benefit from his father’s billion dollar net worth. Elsewhere, the creators hope to make Hilton relatable with references to her love of comfortable clothes and animals. However, these efforts quickly fail as her family talks about Paris’ childhood pet monkey and her grandfather’s private tennis court. The documentary attempts to show that Hilton is not the spoiled person from “The Simple Life,” but to suggest that she grew up like most children is not realistic. Instead, it comes off as self-serving and oblivious to the average viewers’ realities.

Hilton discusses her busy work schedule, but beyond a few public relations events and early mornings doing makeup and hair, the over 200 days she claims to travel for work are not portrayed in the documentary. She might work hard, but showing the daily challenges in her work life would be more interesting than filming her arriving late to events or taking pictures with fans. Likewise, she mentions her many product lines and hotel, but the documentary doesn’t show the creative or business process, leaving the viewer to wonder if she participates in her business endeavors or if she is just the image for these products. 

Her tumultuous teenage years are shown as a build-up to her parents’ decision to send her to a boarding school for troubled teens. We see 15-year-old Hilton attending night clubs and partying with a fake ID. However, the documentary does not show the dangers nightlife may impose on a teenage girl. Instead, Hilton brushes over any underlying issues by claiming those spaces made her feel accepted and helped create what we know today as the Paris brand. It is also hinted that her parent’s reasoning to send her away was to maintain the family name clean from the New York Post’s notorious Page Six column, but this claim has no detailed explanation and comes off as a sort of delusion about just how relevant the Hilton name was outside their social circle.

Finally, an hour and nine minutes into the documentary, there is some well-made content. Hilton explains the mental and physical abuse that she endured at Provo Canyon School, the boarding school that her parents sent her to. Unlike the other documentary segments, there is a detailed and organic portrayal between the issues that torment Hilton and her time at boarding school. A powerful conversation between survivors is shown on the screen, allowing for more perspectives beyond that of just the Hilton family. “This is Paris” offers a powerful healing journey for the school survivors, including Hilton herself, as they take action through the “Breaking Code Silence” campaign.

Ultimately, “This is Paris” lacks direction and depth. It delves into several aspects of Hilton’s life, such as her career and her rise to fame, but omits many important details about these topics. While the conversation around trauma is well-constructed, everything else in the documentary feels like an afterthought. “This is Paris” comes off as two different documentaries: one where they attempt to show the woman behind a multimillion-dollar empire and another where she narrates the trauma that haunts her. While these themes could go together, the documentary fails to present a cohesive connection between the two — and instead settles for dull mediocrity.

Contact Brany Barragan at [email protected].