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Isn't She Great (2000)
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Review Date: January 26, 2000
Director: Andrew Bergman
Writer: Paul Rudnick
Producers: Mike Lobell
Actors:
Bette Midler as Jacqueline Susann
Nathan Lane as Irving Mansfield
Stockard Channing as Florence Maybelle
David Hyde Pierce as Michael Hastings
Plot:
Director Andrew Bergman claims that this film is "loosely based" on the life of Jacqueline Susann, a woman who began her career in showbiz with two-bit parts and radio spots, and ended up as one of the most controversial and successful novelists of her generation. Starting from the 1920s and into the late 60s, this movie also accentuates the impact of her relationship with husband/publicist Irving Mansfield.
Critique:
Interesting, funny at times, well cast, this movie works when taken in as the story of an underdog whose determination, persistence, flair and tinge of talent take her to the top, but surrenders to mediocrity when considering itself an all-out comedy or romance drama. I didn't really know what this film was about before entering the theatre, so just the fact that it was able to keep me interested all the way through, is a point in its favor. Having always held a strong interest in discovering the background of all grass roots success stories, this film handed me a fine helping of nutritious facts, despite some apparent "loosening" of her real-life story. One of the areas of this film which didn't quite work for me on the other hand, included the relationship with her husband/publicist, which seemed arbitrary and just plain odd in my eyes. The humor was also pretty spotty, with some solid guffaws from Midler, Lane and Channing from time to time, but overall, it felt more like a chuckle-and-smile film than anything else.

David Hyde Pierce was also pretty solid as the tight-ass WASPy character, as was John Cleese, whose small role was actually funny just for his 60s jive and clothing. In fact, I really did enjoy most of the cast, despite my reluctance to accept some of their obvious overacting early on, but when the curtain call came to set, the whole thing just left me with a "whatever" feeling. I suppose that the many people who do know of this lady, her books or the movies made in their name, might enjoy this on another level altogether, but if you're like me, and know little about this woman or her sleazy novels, I don't think you'll be taken on to any kind of ROCKY "let's-go-out-there-and-kick-some-ass-in-the-world" type feeling. I would say that it's a nice movie, enjoyable to watch, but even easier to forget. See it if you're in the mood for light laughs or appreciate the work of any of its principals, and enjoy its underdog-done-good story in the meantime. Otherwise, you could always wait until this puppy shows up on your local video rental shelves or skip it altogether. Trust me, she's not that great and your life will be fine without her.

Also, if you're like me, and you happen to live in Montreal, Canada, well, you could also make a game out of this film, and try to spot any of the local hangouts which were dressed up like New York in this camouflaged movie.
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian
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