Isn't She Great | Chicago Reader

Isn't She Great

A major washout. One might think that a campy, 50s-style showbiz biopic about best-selling sleaze novelist Jacqueline Susann written by Paul Rudnick, directed by Andrew Bergman, and starring Bette Midler couldn't miss, but in fact this misses on just about every level. Maybe it's because camp is defined by lack of self-consciousness, or because coherent comedies of any kind have to be built on consistent premises, or because biopics that lie or evade the truth about their subjects have to come up with some other story to tell. This seems at times to be trying to emulate John Waters's Female Trouble (with Midler standing in for Divine), and it periodically comes up with bouts of WASP bashing (David Hyde Pierce, as Susann's editor, is the butt of most of these jokes), but without much passion or unity of purpose; the signs of studio committeethink are everywhere. Everyone must have been afraid of a lawsuit, because genuine irreverence and vulgarity are ultimately avoided like the plague—which is not to say that we get reverence or good taste either—and nothing of substance from Susann's work is ever really evoked. Check out the 1975 movie Jacqueline Susann's Once Is Not Enough for a few clues about what this could and should have been like. With Nathan Lane, Stockard Channing, Amanda Peet, and John Cleese.

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