Isn't She Great

Bomb Rating: 

In this film, "Valley of the Dolls" novelist Jacqueline Susann (Bette Midler) owns a poodle, a fact I find particularly apropos since Midler bears a rather striking resemblance to a big, fat poodle that talks. She does this thing where she sits in a chair with her legs all curled up beneath her, batting her eyelashes, pursing her lips together. She looks like she's waiting for somebody to throw her a treat.

Director Andrew Bergman, who's trying to resurrect his career after the train wreck that was "Striptease," appears to believe that anybody who has seen 50's and 60's television actually misses it, because the whole tone of the film hints at the idea of a raunchy "Mother Knows Best." Bergman's theme is that Susann's semi-pornographic, best-selling novel exposed the dichotomy between the flaccid 50's and the wild 60's.

So what? You're likely to miss this pithy insight while watching the rather disturbing relationship between Midler and her fictional husband, Nathan Lane, who plays Irving Mansfield. I thought Lane was gay -- he certainly seems to make a rather unconvincing husband. And if he isn't gay, he's criminally jolly, which is certainly cause for legitimate suspicion.

While Bergman isn't making the case for re-evaluating Susann's literary prowess, he is making one for her as an important cultural icon. She's supposedly the woman who made smut mainstream. Question is: where is the smut? The entire social life of Susann and Mansfield is embodied in one moderately amusing friend (Stockard Channing) and trips to one of those now-retro restaurants that now puts the fear of God into anybody with the slightest inkling of taste. If Bergman thinks that Susann is a predicator of the vacuity of modern culture, then he's created a wonderful irony. His film fits right in.

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