Review: Hulu's 'Hillary' tells story of Clinton's trials, tribulations

Four-part documentary dives into Clinton's rise and falls

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Early on in the four-part Hulu docuseries "Hillary," Hillary Clinton gives her take on the polarizing attitudes that have surrounded her for her entire political career. 

"I one time said to somebody who asked, 'what do you want on your gravestone?' I said, 'she's neither as good nor as bad as some people say about her.'" 

"Hillary" treats its subject on the plus-end of that argument, even though the doc isn't likely to change anyone's minds about Clinton. It's not for lack of trying, but who among her detractors is willing to invest four-plus hours into her story? 

Hillary Clinton in "Hillary."

But Nanette Burstein's documentary shines an important light on a fascinating figure, highlighting her rise, her falls and her climb toward becoming America's first female president, a distinction of which she fell just a few emails shy.

Surely Burstein thought the movie she was making was about that glass ceiling-shattering victory; instead, she's left with an examination of Clinton's strengths and weaknesses, and the way they've been reflected in a changing America. 

Is Clinton misunderstood? Probably, but "Hillary" shows why that is the case, and how Hillary herself has had trouble controlling her own narrative. 

"Hillary" ping-pongs back and forth between Clinton's past and the 2016 election. Burstein and her crew were on the road with Clinton during the campaign, and we see the small backstage moments as well as the big rallies and crowds as she marches on what seems like an inevitable win (despite opposition from both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump) and soon becomes a career-defining loss. 

There's no questioning her credentials, which Burstein dives into, from her days at Wellesley and Yale Law to her courtship with Bill Clinton and her work as the First Lady of Arkansas.

Bill explains they were seen very much as a package deal, and we see how the gender politics of Hillary not initially taking his last name likely cost him a governor's race. It's one of the many ways Hillary has and continues to fight gender expectations and stereotypes.

"Hillary" explores a lot, from the emails to the infidelities that shaped her public and private life. We hear from campaign aids, reporters, college friends and political analysts.

Most of all we hear from Clinton herself, who comes off as alternately open and guarded, careful in her wording and always cautious even while being candid — for better or for worse, a politician until the very end.




Not rated: some language

Running time: 253 minutes

Now on Hulu