Isn't She Great
Isn't it awful?
Reviewed by Stephen MacMillan Moser, Fri., Dec. 29, 2000
D: Andrew Bergman (2000); with Bette Midler, Nathan Lane, Stockard Channing, David Hyde-Pierce, John Cleese.
This film version of the life story of Jacqueline Susann is deplorable in every way. What were these people thinking? Even as a fan of Midler and Susann, I found it a completely disappointing experience, with Midler, whose standard schtick is wearing thin these days, playing little more than a parody of herself. If we hadn't already known it was supposed to be about Jacqueline Susann, it would never have become apparent, since Midler misses the mark entirely -- beginning with her physical type. As a gifted and presumably self-respecting actress, Midler should have abandoned the project after watching the first rushes. What also should have become apparent from the first rushes is that Channing, who seems to play a conglomerate of Susann's women friends, should have played Susann herself. She has the range and skill and look to pull it off -- Midler's a great entertainer, but Channing is a far better actress. As Irving Mansfield, Susann's husband and agent, Lane is well on his way to becoming the male Bette Midler -- a parody of himself and as predictable as he can be. Lane is just lame in this. The script has a few funny exchanges, but in the hands of Midler and Lane's overacting, any script would get lost. It is much more of a fictionalized account of Susann's life -- the episodes of spending time on the Christina with Ari and Jackie Onassis are completely fabricated -- but it's all for naught anyway. As for the all-important costuming -- it is a split decision. Technically many of the clothes are absolutely perfect -- they just look ridiculous on Midler. Jacqueline Susann was fastidious about her fashion appearance, such as it was, and many of the clothes seem to be exact replicas of the originals. On Susann, the styles were garish and over-the-top, emphasizing her rock-hard desire to succeed at any cost. On Midler, the same clothes are ludicrous. I admire Midler for being unafraid to look ludicrous -- it's been her calling card for decades -- but the ugly reality is that Midler, who is gloriously Rubenesque, needed to shed more than a few pounds to pull off Susann's look. The Truman Capote character, played by Sam Street, is fabulous -- for his entire 30 seconds onscreen, and while the film's reference to the famous feud between Capote and Susann is briefly touched on, it is exactly the sort of incident in her life that is completely obliterated by this fiasco. Cleese is wasted as Susann's publisher, and Hyde-Pierce is his usual Niles-like anal-retentive self. The producers were right on the money a few times -- music by Burt Bacharach and sung by Dionne Warwick is an excellent choice. If only they had used Bacharach's Sixties style music instead of the dreary new stuff. Isn't She Great is simply awful