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An unsuccessful over-the-top actress becomes a successful over-the-top authoress in this biography of Jacqueline Susann, the famed writer of "Valley of the Dolls" and other trashy novels. Facing a failing career, Susann meets a successful promoter who becomes her husband. After several failures to place her in commercials and a TV quiz show, he hits upon the idea for her to become a writer. In the pre-1960s, her books were looked upon as trash and non-printable. But then the sexual revolution hit and an audience was born for her books. The story shows the hidden behind the scenes story of Susann's life, including her autistic son and her continuing bout with cancer that she hid up to her death. Written by
John Sacksteder <email@example.com>
ISN'T SHE GREAT (2000) ** Bette Midler, Nathan Lane, Stockard Channing, David Hyde Pierce, John Cleese, Amanda Peet. Before there was Jackie Collins and Amazon.com there was Jacqueline Susann. That is prior to the subgenre of 'trashy romance' novels found in your neighborhood pharmacy and the glut that is now the conglomerate superbookstore i.e. marketing and focus groups for the masses! there was Jacqueline Susann, whose bawdy, vulgar and tasteless novels were ultimately candy for the average American reader who gobbled her tomes faster than she could churn them out. In Andrew Bergman's look at the queen of the acquired taste, who else could portray a larger than life figurehead than the estimable Divine Miss M herself, Bette Midler.
Midler gives it her all with her trademark ball-breaking brio as the celebrity craven author whose indefatigable image fashioning was only matched by par by her long-suffering but ever devoted husband and business partner Irving Mansfield (touché Lane, making their onscreen presence a once in a lifetime pairing to appreciative audiences), who used all his show biz savvy no matter how gauche or seemingly stooping manners of barnstorming the country to every podunk backwater stationery store or spreading the word to a busload of school children to make Susann a giantess among the mortals in the writing field.
Based on a reminiscence by New Yorker's Michael Korda, the fact that the real Susann was no sweetheart and a real tough cookie with a few sad hurdles her ongoing bout with cancer and the institutionalization of her only child who suffered from autism are casually sugar-coated by Bergman (whose impeccable credits include a plethora of the comic pantheon including 'The In-Laws', 'The Freshman' and 'Blazing Saddles') and the sharply sticky screenplay by scathing scribe Paul Rudnick ('In & Out') wisely overlook her obvious flaws and instead center on the unlikely union of two borderline caricatures of the entertainment field, and their questionable romance. But Midler and Lane surpass the film's shortcomings with their theatrical overplaying, which is arguably suitable, as well as the always welcome Channing, one of our most underrated comic actresses, whose succor in her line readings are a stitch (when Susann belabors she doesn't know how to write a book, Channing says with aplomb, 'Talent isn't everything.'); she's like the salt in a margarita.
Also lending able support is Hyde Pierce in another variation of his tv persona from 'Frasier' as Susann's stuffed shirt editor and Cleese as the Nehru jacketed publisher, both in their element here.
The one thing that seems to be missing is it seems outdated and quite a lot to compress in a film that has the dubious distinction of telling the story of a woman who wasn't very nice nor well respected, but then again that hasn't been the case of celebrity history in this country, so I'm not even going to argue that!
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