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David James Elliott
Nicole is stunned when her daughter Cameron returns from a vacation in Mexico engaged to handsome Brent. But Brent has a secret girlfriend, Lexi, and together they're planning to kill Cameron for her money right after her honeymoon.
From his slab in the morgue, mega-rich Miami Beach hotel owner Rob Lowe (as Benjamin "Ben" Novack Jr.) narrates this movie. Although he's dead, Mr. Lowe sounds good-natured about his unfortunate end. It turns out to be a very painful death, however. "Viewer discretion is advised," reminds the Lifetime TV channel after several commercial breaks. Lowe briefly describes his upbringing. He was raised in a hotel around people like Elvis, Sinatra, JFK and Marilyn Monroe. Lowe says he was brought up on "TV and comic books." His all-time favorite is "Batman" and, as an adult, Lowe owns the TV series' Batmobile...
Coming of age, Lowe develops a taste for, in his words, "ass, booze, drugs." Most significantly, he becomes interested in super-sexy stripper Paz Vega (as Narcisa "Narcy" Veliz Pacheco). Lowe wants to make her his Catwoman. A single mom, Ms. Vega specializes in lap-dancing. She often appears to be aiming for a man's face instead of his lap. After Lowe saves Vega from a rape attempt, he take her for a ride in his Batmobile. The sex is fun, but a violent series of incidents leads to Lowe's death...
"Beautiful & Talented" was based on a true story, according to the opening and closing. This makes the story's execution very strange. Also an executive producer, Lowe immediately gives it a comic treatment. Director Christopher Zalla goes along with Lowe's characterization and adds generous looks at Vega's arousing curves (this being a US TV movie, the main spots remain covered). Vega and Candice Bergen (as Bernice) contribute to the fun. When the tone turns from light-hearted to gruesome, the story becomes jarring. In sum, these horrific murders are uneasily turned into sexy, fun entertainment. Early on, it works. Later on, it doesn't...
Having the victim narrate the story does recall the classic "Sunset Boulevard" (1950). By itself, that wouldn't be worth mentioning; and, it could even be coincidental. However, we do see Vega descend an ending staircase in a set-up that is obviously patterned after Billy Wilder's significantly more impressive stairway descent in "Sunset Boulevard". That story focused on Gloria Swanson (as Norma Desmond), but this one isn't sure Vega's "Narcy" is more interesting than Lowe's character. Led by suspicious daughter Seychelle Gabriel (as May), others in the cast are more serious and convincing. Richard Wong's photography and the luxurious locations are also quite good...
Adding to my measured recommendation of "Beautiful & Twisted" is the extensive supporting cast, plus extras and background players. They are a big part of Mr. Wong's scenery and help give the production a classy, professional look. Susan Edelman and the casting services almost set a record for a high number of my "Facebook" friends in a "Lifetime" TV movie...
Now a very prolific and versatile character actor, Barry Livingston plays the hotel event director; he is most remembered as Ernie Douglas, the youngest boy on the classic TV series "My Three Sons". There are a couple scenes with Douglas Eames as a policeman; he just finished a supporting role in "Doctor Mabuse: Etiopomar". A friend who seems to appear enough to have his own weekly show, Joe Integlia played a hotel guest. Alas, Joe's scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. That's show business...
****** Beautiful & Twisted (1/31/15) Christopher Zalla ~ Rob Lowe, Paz Vega, Candice Bergen, Seychelle Gabriel
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