There is little doubt that the personal and professional life of Hugh Hefner contains more than enough material for a great biopic or a great documentary.
He is, after all, one of the great success stories in the history of publishing, and he played a key role in a permanent shift in sexual mores in America. He was a largely unrecognized force in the American Civil Rights movement, and his personal romantic life is so turbulent that it seems almost like a Greek tragic counterpoint to his tremendous success. Like it's so perfect it couldn't be written that way.
So do I think you could make a great movie about Hugh Hefner? Absolutely.
Is this that movie? Absolutely not.
I quite liked Brigitte Berman's Oscar-winning documentary about Artie Shaw, the clarinet-playing jazz musician. I thought it was atmospheric and evocative and really painted a picture of a time and place. Her latest film, "Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel" is a well-meaning whiff, about as deep as an average episode of "The E! True Hollywood Story." It lays out several of the more significant landmarks for Hefner, but there not one moment in the whole film where I get any sense of Hefner as a person.
As a symbol? Sure. As an icon? Yes. But Hefner has always maintained a distance from the public by design, wearing his Halloween mask so long that it's become his face. Or in his case, his pajamas. I admire Hefner the way I admire Neo at the end of "The Matrix." He managed to bend reality to pure will and remake the world the way he wanted it.