A still from 'American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story'
A still from 'American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story'

'American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story'
U/A: Documentary/Drama
Dir: Richard Lopez
Cast: Matt Whelan, Emmett Skilton
Rating: 

Would you believe it if we told you that publisher-businessman Hugh Hefner, considered among the most flamboyant playboys in Hollywood, was, in fact, rather shy? We didn't either until we caught a preview of the upcoming docu-series, American Playboy – The Hugh Hefner Story, based on the 90-year-old's controversial life.

The first two episodes that were shown to the media before the show's official release on April 7 shed light on Hefner's childhood, and his life amid conformist parents, who didn't believe in the display of affection. Like any other teen, he turned to cinema for inspiration, always aspiring to live the glamorous life.

He began his journey by sketching cartoons and comic strips, and penning opinionated pieces for his college bulletin. The young boy grew up with the ambition of writing for Esquire, the only lifestyle magazine that catered to men at that time. But landing his dream job didn't cut it for Hefner.

With an initial investment of $6,000, he started work on his magazine, Stag Party, which became an instant hit among men. Copyright issues compelled Hefner to amend the name and logo of his brand, which is when Playboy hit stands. The docu also tries highlighting how the magazine raised issues concerning women, including, abortion and pre-marital relationships, aside from the notorious display of sexual content and nudity.

Director Richard Lopez captured the essence of this larger-than-life personality, and despite explicit content, things are far from vulgar. Matt Whelan as Hefner captures the man's demeanour perfectly. The storyline successfully sketches the billionaire's journey from humble beginnings to his meteoric rise in the world of glamour. Hefner's narration adds authenticity to the part. A show that attempts to portray Hefner's life would be incomplete without the display of nudity.

Amazon Prime has not blurred or edited explicit scenes. The makers take the audience by surprise by highlighting Hefner's intention behind launching Playboy, which makes the series worth watching for those who dig biopics and others looking for a tease.

Hugh Hefner poses with Playboy model Dani Mathers. Pic/Getty Images
Hugh Hefner poses with Playboy model Dani Mathers. Pic/Getty Images

A controversial life
A spate of articles has put the spotlight on the going-ons in Hugh Hefner's LA mansion, where Playboy bunnies roamed in abundance. A 2015 report described a ritual where girls circled around Hefner, who'd watch porn and have sex with his “main” girlfriend.