REVIEW: Seeing Allred (2018 – Documentary)

Release Poster – Netflix

The following is a review of Seeing Allred — A Netflix Documentary.

I’ll be honest with you, I was not at all that familiar with Gloria Allred before I saw this documentary. Sure, I had seen her referenced in stuff like South Park or The Simpsons, and I remember the Gloria Allred scene in Jerry Zucker’s Rat Race. But that was pretty much it. This Netflix documentary definitely filled in some gaps, for me, but it still somehow feels incomplete.

Netflix’s Seeing Allred from documentarian directors Roberta Grossman & Sophie Sartain is a seemingly fairly comprehensive account of Gloria Allred’s career, which takes us from her early days as an attorney all the way up to the immediate aftermath of the 2016 United States presidential election and ending very appropriately by playing Laura Branigan’s “Gloria.”

“I think we have a uterus and a brain and they both work.” – Gloria Allred.

The documentary is very much concerned with reframing Gloria Allred as a hardcore feminist bulldog, if you will. The film goes to great lengths to emphasize her role as an agent for women very much in the driving seat when it comes to civil rights movements.

In the opening of the documentary, the documentary takes quotes from Allred that position her as this champion of women while simultaneously highlighting some of the ways she has been criticized or lampooned in the media. The most famous women’s rights attorney is also someone widely criticized.

“Whenever you see Gloria Allred, you know somebody is lying.”

Unfortunately, the documentary doesn’t go much further than that in exploring its subject. You hear criticisms, jokes at her expense, and skits making fun of her, but the documentary doesn’t really pin down for what reasons she is disliked or made fun of. Apparently, she has this reputation as an ambulance chaser, which is not something I can speak to, but the documentary certainly doesn’t clue you in on exactly what people’s problem is. As such, Seeing Allred is entirely flattering to its subject.

Perhaps the best thing about this documentary is how timely it, ultimately, is. The documentarians do a good job of having the documentary feature large sections dedicated entirely to the Bill Cosby and Donald Trump sexual assault and harassment allegations.

The most interesting part of Seeing Allred is obviously what information it gives us about her own life experiences. The documentary does not just include a section about Gloria and her daughter, it also includes some very personal information about what traumatizing events had happened to Allred when she was younger.

As mentioned, the 2016 United States presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is discussed here. Allred was, unsurprisingly, very much in support of Clinton, and this film does a nice job of positioning Allred as ‘the one who actually beat Trump once before.’

With a lesser documentary subject, this final section might have seemed to have been tacked on to appear timely, but its addition does not at all seem like a last-minute inclusion. It works with the entire documentary. It all adds up. Even when all hope seems lost — when Allred realizes that Trump has won — her spirit is not broken. She remains hellbent on doing whatever she can for women. All things considered, Seeing Allred is very compelling.

7 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen


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