The Lonely Lady (1983)
User ReviewsReview this title
I worry that someday the world will see a major nuclear war. And if it does, the survivors will say while digging out, "That was horrible. But come to think of it, it wasn't as horrible as 'The Lonely Lady!'"
Please folks, if you want to see an '80s flick with lots of skin, see "Summer Lovers." Do NOT see this film unless watching a dwarfish leading lady getting raped and spouting unendurable dialog to a bargain basement cast is your idea of an enjoyable movie experience.
Hard as it is for most of us to believe, especially these days, nobody in Hollywood sets out to INTENTIONALLY make a bad movie. This is certainly not the most defensible argument to make, since there just seem to be so damn many of them coming out. But then again, there is that breed of film that one must imagine during the time of its creation, from writing, casting and direction, must've been cursed with the cinematic equivalent of trying to shoot during the Ides of March.
THE LONELY LADY is in that category, and represents itself very well, considering the circumstances. Here we have all the ingredients in a recipe guaranteed to produce a monumentally fallen soufflé: Pia Zadora, a marginal singer/actress so determined to be taken seriously, that she would take on practically anything that might set her apart from her peers, (which this movie most certainly did!); a somewhat high-profile novel written by the Trashmaster himself, Harold Robbins (of THE CARPETBAGGERS and DREAMS DIE FIRST fame); a cast who probably thought they were so fortunate to be working at all, that they tried to play this dreck like it was Clifford Odets or Ibsen; plus a director who more than likely was a hired gun who kept the mess moving just to collect a paycheck, (and was probably contractually obligated NOT to demand the use of the 'Alan Smithee' moniker to protect what was left of his reputation.) Like Lamont Johnson's LIPSTICK, Meir Zarchi's I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, Roger Vadim's BARBARELLA, Paul Verhoeven's SHOWGIRLS or the Grandmammy of Really Bad Film-making, Frank Perry's MOMMY DEAREST, THE LONELY LADY is still often-discussed, (usually with disgust, disbelief, horrified laughter, or a unique combination of all three), yet also defies dissection, description or even the pretzel logic of Hollyweird. Nobody's sure how it came to be, how it was ever released in even a single theater, or why it's still here and nearly impossible to get rid of, but take it or leave it, it IS here to stay. And I don't think that lovers of really good BAD movies would have it any other way.
A long time ago I saw an interview with Eleanor Perry, who wrote the screenplays for, among other things, "Last Summer" and "Diary of a Mad Housewife," and she related that she had been asked to write a screenplay for the Harold Robbins' book "The Lonely Lady." She said that she sent in a treatment and it was rejected because they didn't think she understood the difficulties of a female screenwriter in Hollywood. She then said "I think they got someone else to write it." The interview was filmed before the movie was released. She died in 1981, and I bet the first thing she did on arrival in heaven was personally thank God for saving her from involvement in the result.
This is one of the few movies so bad that it would even be passed over by nude-scene-hunting horny teenagers. Everything about is bad. There is not a single redeeming quality, not one scene that works, not a single character that isn't a benign, idiotic one-dimensional drip.
I can't call this the worst film ever made but it's close. However, the single worst scene in a movie I have ever seen is Pia Zadora's nervous breakdown.
Quite simply a waste of vital resources. 1/2* out of ****.
Pia gets naked a lot and seems miscast as a writer. Watching her talk about Pushkin and Byron with a guy three times her age is flat unbelievable. I'm sure Pia's a nice person in real life, she just doesn't project the writer vibe. She looked much happier when she was working as a hostess for that guy from Saturday Night Fever and wearing a glittery disco dress.
A couple of the scenes are funny. The one where she tells the two-timing actor that she's pregnant and he rolls his eyes and snaps at her to "stop hanging around!", all the while he's practically fawning over every bimbo who flounces by.
Pia's nervous breakdown scene is good. It was probably a mistake to go so supernova on it (the vortex of floating faces and freeze-frame scream - whoa!) and her subsequent catatonic stupor is kind of overdone.
The acceptance speech is a hoot, though. I want to see someone do that speech in a drama class.
But, again, this is trash we're talking about. You could find worse on any movie of the week back in the eighties.
As badly as it fails as art, it fails even worse as commerce. Who could have been the target market for this. What age group? What interest group?
Someone should make a movie about how and why they made this movie. That I would pay to see.
I've seen thousands of bad movies, and this ranks with "Sailor Who Fell from Grace" and "Manos" ... my choices as the three most unredeemably bad movies I've ever seen. Everybody associated with it should be forced to make conversation with VanDamme for all eternity.
I challenge you. Watch this movie and perform an academic exercise - how could you take this and make it worse? I can't think of one way.
I seem to remember the book being pretty amusing, so when I saw it in the video store I went "Well alright!" I must admit seeing Pia Zadora on the box made me wary, but I rented it anyway. Well, if this a good movie or a bad movie depends on your sense of humor and how warped it is. When I first started watching it I was almost sulked down in my chair in self-embaressment. My boyfriend at the time walked in and said "what are you watching?" and I said "Some sucky movie." Then the Ray Liotta garden hose rape scene came on and this went from being a bad legit movie to an unintentionally hysterical cult classic.
The story here is about Pia being a young woman who asspires to be a great writer and how she finds people taking advantage of her and making her (gasp!) sleep her way to the top (only "sleep" is not quite the word Pia uses when she makes a disgusted awards speech at the films climax). Yes, this movie has some outrageous stuff going on. And some of the lines are hoot worthy ("....Maybe THIS is more your kick?!" fumes a frustrated lover shaking a garden house at Pia.)
Pia has always been a sort of B level or Z level celeb and this flick will show you why. Is it on my list of View Again And Again Bad cinema? No. its not quite that amusing. But its worth a viewing if you like truly bad tastless cinema. Drugs and booze will greatly enhance this experience (although I was sober as the Pope when I saw it and still chuckled).So the best advice I can give is make sure you have plenty of booze and other vices on hand, invite over your funniest friends and have a triple-bill of Lonely LADY,VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL KILL.
Mr. Bochner of course is famous for the Twilight Zone episode, "To Serve Man" about an advanced alien race that regales humankind with many advanced benefits. Bochner finally translates their "Bible" to serve man, only to find that it is a cookbook, and the Aliens are bring earthlings to their planet to cook and eat them. Hence the line, that was well sent up in the one of the Naked Gun movies. And, it's appropriate here because they took Harold Robbins' sleazy book, cut away the book part, and just left the sleaze!
Actually, I didn't think Pia Zadora acted poorly at all. The character was a ridiculously bizarre caricature but so were all the others. Accomplished players who happened to be in Europe at the time such as Joseph ("Saturday Night Fever") Cali, Ray ("Field of Dreams") Liotta, Bibi Besch, and Shane ("Dr. Strangelove") Rimmer were all made to look equally ridiculous.
And all that being said, I'll disagree with many of the other reviewers. I did find it bad enough to be funny. I often think of the outrageous dialogue and inappropriate costumes, and just laugh out loud.
So, I don't think you should avoid it. It's short enough, and it gives you something to talk about for years afterward. Just don't take it seriously.
But it's (unintentionally) funny as hell though. The "breakdown" scene alone will have you giggling, and after seeing the climatic "I'm not the only one who had to **** her way to the top" scene at the "Awards" (all done in the usual bargain-basement acting level we expect from such quality thespians as Pia), I sincerely hope that our dear Pia actually reused that speech when she "won" her Golden Globe. It's fitting and that would totally make my day.
Anyway, if you're a fan of bad, tashy camp, give this otherwise tacky movie a try.
Let us be frank, I'm responsible for committing such crime to myself, guilty as charged. Often listed one of the worst stinkers ever made, I just felt the need to see it with my own eyes how bad this could get, reserving some hope this might a bad good film or maybe not that bad as they say. It turned out be to a sickening, gut-wrenching and almost pointless experience. I say almost because I learned a few things from it: 1) I don't have the strength nor the health to watch those kind of films. It's life threatening and from now on I'll try to avoid at all costs when I sense a movie is going terrible. I'll allow myself more and more walkouts. 2) to trust a little more when a whole bunch pans something, go forward it with them, join them. They're right! Why bothering wasting time with garbage? You're being warned as I was, just don't go one step beyond like I did. You'll feel better afterwards. My advice: read all the reviews written in here about this thing, you'll find some funny material of the highest quality.
The average easy reading book written by Harold Robbins was translated to the screen as a corny, almost soap-operish flick ruined from practically scene one. To the director, writer and producer of this it must have been quite a luck that Robbins was suffering from aphasia at the time of the release of this, otherwise I think he would sue those people, ask for his name to be risked from the credits and would disown this with passion. Weird soundtrack, insanely bad script and lousy acting by almost the entire cast (poor Ray Liotta in one of his earliest roles, and here's an infamous one as the main character's rapist). What's this all about? The adventures and misfortunes of Jerilee Randall (Pia Zadora) trying to establish herself as a serious screenwriter, fighting against Hollywood's misogynist conventions, learning that the only way to get to the top in the entertainment business and being a successful person is to be ON top of a bunch of cruel, hedonist yet powerful man (and some women!). It's almost like if this was a silly biographical account of someone relatively famous who had to go through the same experiences the main character had to.
Won't go further in details on why this fails because this is almost common knowledge for those of us who know about films out there. From the one line written by Jerilee changing a whole film written by her husband (WHY?) to the hilarious montage sequence with her breakdown smashing objects, not a single moment was good in this junk. We can almost forgive the acting problems but we can't forgive how negative the script is towards women and their representations of being needy, naive and with limited talents, and we certainly cannot forgive the infamous hosing rape scene which was, in the lack of a better word and reaction, laughable. This isn't a funny issue in life but somehow everything (terrible music combined with the awful editing and lousy acting) contributed to such laughable reaction (in my defense, never during the scene but a little afterwards to quickly disappear with shock when of Jerilee's mother reaction to the event - the doctor quoting "She was attacked" to which she replied "But not raped!").
The only redeeming quality of this is the final scene. Yes, they made something good out of that which was better than was in the book. I almost felt something for the character in that moment. She wins the Oscar, after going through hell trying to sell her script, and in the acceptance speech she gives the movie's best bad line and gets booed of the stage. In Robbins novel, it's the same thing except...she strips naked painted in gold as the Oscar and addresses herself against the men in Hollywood. Can you imagine this scene filmed? They would probably erase the mentions of this film as if never existed in history. Too bad it exists and can be found out there. Thankfully, not that easily. 1/10
I discovered that book hidden on my parents shelf in the 1980's and was amazed by it. How did they fit so much sex and depravity between its pages? And when I learned that HBO would be showing the movie adaption at 4 AM, well, look out!
Jerilee Randall (Pia Zadora!) is an innocent waif living in the San Fernando Valley with a dream of being a screenwriter and a trophy for creative writing. Then, she meets Walter Thornton (Mr. No Legs, Crystal Heart), a famous screenwriter. She's kind of, sort of is dating his son, but she slowly falls in love with him. But before all that, Ray Liotta rapes her with a garden hose.
You know how they say that you need to take a shower after some movies? You need to continually shower during The Lonely Lady. In fact, I would recommend putting your TV in the hallway and watching the film from the shower.
Walter and Jerilee marry, despite the protests of her mom. He gets her a job as an on-set writer, but when the one word she adds to his script (WHY!?!) improves the film, their marriage starts to fail. He's unable to satisfy his wife. Also: his chest hair is like a perilious thatch of salt and pepper steel wool.
Walter accuses her of enjoying the rape with a garden hose and that's the end of their marriage (well, they stay married, but she leaves). Jerilee starts sleeping her way through Hollywood, including getting pregnant by George Ballantine (Jared Martin from Fulci's Warriors of the Year 2072!) and then getting an abortion before falling for a nightclub owner. He lies to her all along the way, until she finds him having sex with two other women. Lost and hopelessly addicted to pills, she has a nervous breakdown in a bravurra sequence.
Every single agent that Jerilee meets with wants to sleep with her. Seriously, every single one. Well, I take that back. Some of them want her to sleep with their wives. Even a woman tries to take advantage of her.
Finally, Jerilee's script is produced - and it has to star George Ballantine - but it wins a major award that is not an Oscar.
Jerilee goes off during her speech, admitting to her ex-husband that she never learned anything about self-respect and that she's slept her way to the top. She refuses the award and walks out with dignity to the strains of her theme song. That's not as good as the book, which ends with her tearing off her clothes to reveal the Oscar painting upside down with his head resting inside her pubic hair.
Meshulam Rikls, Pia Zadora's billionaire husband, spent $5 million to get this made and spent several million more for Universal Pictures to release it in the U.S. But you gotta give it to Pia - despite half of the audience being voters for the Razzie Awards who laughed throughout the film - she showed up and stayed for autographs in the lobby. I would have been right there in line, ready with a supportive hug if she needed it!
Pia Zadora may never have been one of the great talents to ever come down the pike, but she does try as hard as she can, in the role of Jerilee Randall, a promising young writer. Jerilee does manage to get a few books published, but screenwriting is an entirely different matter. There's no shortage of vile males (and even females) looking to take advantage of her, while she courts the vague hope that they might actually be able to (or want to) help her career get going. She has stormy relationships with a variety of flawed men: veteran, renowned screenwriter Walter Thornton (Lloyd Bochner), self-centred film star George Ballantine (Jared Martin), and club owner Vincent Dacosta (Joseph Cali).
It would be hard not to feel some sympathy for this Jerilee character. There are few supportive influences in her life, and there are so many rotten men. At first, Walter seems to be a good catch, even if he IS old enough to be her father. But even he suffers from a fragile male ego. The film actually aims its lowest early on, when a creep played by Ray Liotta (in his film debut) molests Jerilee with a garden hose. I kid you not.
Some of the cast do struggle to keep their dignity intact. Bochner is pretty good, under the circumstances, as is Anthony Holland as a film director who befriends Jerilee.
It's usually standard practice for me to give "so bad they're good" movies a five out of 10. As long as they entertain, even if it's not in the manner intended, then the experience isn't a total loss.
It wraps up with one of the funniest lines in movie history, at a mock "awards" ceremony, as Jerilee decides to do away with decorum and be at her most brutally, painfully honest.
Five out of 10.
The reason this movie is so entertaining is its star. Pia Zadora is a bad actress who was fortunately blessed with the gift of accidental comedy. Sometimes you can't help but bust out laughing even before she opens her mouth. I can't help but wondering if maybe she would've had more success if she tried to make comedies rather than angst-ridden melodramas like this that only spotlight her lack of talent.
She is further hindered by utterly atrocious dialogue as is the supporting cast. The lines range from unintentionally funny ("You've already had one abortion, don't make it two", "I don't suppose I'm the only one who's had to f**k her way to the top", "Is this more your kick?") to downright alien (Jerilee's high school award acceptance speech at the beginning and her book reviews, which laud her for depicting "rape and violence with a sensitivity beyond her years" and showing "the inadequacy of liberal values in the face of evil???")
The writers' bad dialogue and poor choice of wording really deserve a mention because this movie is about drum roll, please screenwriters! Nevermind the fact that Jerilee thinks her ticket to fame is becoming a successful screenwriter, she modifies a script by excising an actress's entire monologue and replacing it with "Why?" and it is treated as brilliant! We're also supposed to believe that the actress would rather say one word than give a monologue. Of course it's all worth it as watching the actress act out her new line change is rife with narm.
Bad acting and dialogue aside, it's really hard to feel any sympathy as Jerilee goes from one obvious bad choice to another. She dumps her nice-guy boyfriend in the beginning to run off with a famous screenwriter's son. Her reward for this is getting raped at his house by one of his smarmy friends with a garden hose, no less. The description is absurd on its own, but this scene has to be seen to be believed. Our imperiled heroine writhes on the ground while shrieking her head off as she waits for a soon-to-be-embarrassed Ray Liotta to insert his hose (not a metaphor) inside her. He rips her blouse open so the audience gets a boob shot (first of many) as a bonus while overwrought "scary" music blares. In a more competent movie with a competent cast, this scene would be upsetting to watch. Here, it's so ridiculous that the filmmakers have achieved the impossible: a comedic rape scene.
Later she marries the boy's father (the screenwriter's son, not the garden hose rapist, though given some of her later choices in men, it would've made as much sense) and continues to live in the same house where she was raped! Though it can almost be forgiven as it leads to another memorable scene where her older husband, after battling impotence, waves the garden hose in her face and taunts her with it. It's so jaw-droppingly insensitive you just can't help but laugh.
She follows with a succession of increasingly sleazy boyfriends though once again, it's forgiven as it gives us Jerilee's nervous breakdown scene. Of course, it's memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Jerilee is also given a mother who's every bit as comically insensitive and abusive as her lovers. She repeatedly puts her daughter down after getting raped, getting an abortion, and even going to the loony bin. She throws herself at her daughter's husband, knowing full well that her daughter got violated at his house and that the boy would go unpunished because of hubby's status.
However, the filmmakers obviously felt that the movie could not stand on its own so they added nudity and it gets ramped up as the movie progresses. First, we get an occasional topless shot, then a sex-in-the-shower scene, and then five straight minutes near the end of Jerilee and her latest boyfriend cavorting in the buff. Most of the shots are of Ms. Zadora herself (though we do get to see quite a lot of "Saturday Night Fever's" Joseph Cali) so they clearly thought her body was something special. She even has women coming on to her! Pia Zadora's not a dog, mind you, but she's certainly not attractive enough to have every man and woman fawn over her. The fact that her older, rich husband backed this movie makes it rather icky, as well.
Finally, the movie has an overall generic feel to it. Buildings are not named, the ersatz Oscar ceremony which bookends the film is simply called "The Awards," and one of Jerilee's books is shown with a white cover and blocky letters. Many of the film's songs have a bizarre anonymous vibe to them with simple, uncreative lyrics. Character names are rather dull and uninspired, except for Jerilee, but the movie undercuts even this by having her compete with another woman named Jerilee for a screen writing Oscar sorry, "Award." Not only are the screenwriters for this film out of touch with reality, they're woefully unimaginative.
This movie finally ended Pia's bid for movie stardom. What's strange is how much this movie seems to mirror Pia's own career. Both Pia and Jerilee married older, rich men, used them to get ahead, had their careers ruined at the end of the movie, and bared enough skin to make people call Pia's self-respect into question. Thankfully, those of us in the real world knew better than to give Pia an Oscar.
The screenplay for this film is abysmal, but whether the story could have been filmed more successfully with a better script, tauter directing and really competent acting must remain a matter of personal judgement. As it was released, my viewers rating for it would depend upon whether I am assessing my personal opinion, or assessing to what extent the film succeeds in providing what it aims at doing. My personal rating for it would be two out of ten; but to some extent this film probably provides exactly what its sponsors intended, and judged on this basis a quality rating of four out of ten would be reasonable. Being in a charitable mood, and wanting to make it clear that I am not blaming Pia for my disappointment, I will give an IMDb rating of four.
What should strike one as traumatic, comes across as laughable, in particular, her withdrawal scene features her screaming, with 12 smaller images of her screaming and circling the larger image to form what looks like an unholy Mickey Mouse watch.
It would be very easy to say that Zadora cannot act, but this is not so easily said. In "Butterfly", she gave a credible performance. In this movie, NO ONE can act and they are given very little to act from. Sasdy, the director, seems to have not so much directed, as pointed. During an Oscar speech, one of the presenters says, "Don't let the twentieth century fox you!".
I know. It's gets a laugh, too.
The sets are uniformly cheap; you should see what passes for the auditorium for the Oscars. No matter what is being done, Italy as beautiful a country as it is, cannot be made to look like California, for better or worse.
Such frugality apparently extended to the editing; here is a transcript of a complete scene. Jerilee Randall (Zadora) is at a friend's house after her withdrawal from drugs:
[friend enters from left] Friend: Jerilee, you look really good to-day. Jerillee: Do I? ...and we're off to the next scene. Get some of your loud friends, catch a special low rental day at your local video store and have a good laugh.
Bad script, bad acting, bad camera work, bad, bad, bad... ...what makes it worse is that, like a horrific car accident, I've felt compelled to stare, mouth agape, at this as it plays on premium cable...so I am intricately aware of how horrible this movie is... I don't know what it is--do I imagine that somehow they'll have pulled a George Lucas and re-worked sections that make it merely a pathetically bad movie instead of the champion bad movie? (No luck yet...and thankfully, no premium channel has dared challenge their viewers enough to run this in years... Ahhhh...bliss!)
Someday, a challenger will come...but for now...The Lonely Lady rules as the worst film of all time.