A film based on the life of Jacqueline Susann is a great idea. Bette Midler playing the bestselling authoress is a great idea. The end result is NOT a great idea. Isn't She Great? No.
Alternate titles for Isn't She Great? could be Isn't She Late? Isn't She A Plate? You get it. Make up your own! You know you are in trouble when the DVD menu has the option of full screen or wide screen. I almost chose full screen, just to torture myself a little more. This movie has quite possibly the worst opening credits of a film to have Dionne Warwick singing over them. She has done a lot. She sings the shit out of some shitty song. Dionne always is on her A game.
The tone is set within the first scene. From hair to costumes to set design, it screams tacky. And not like your granny's house tacky, but like the filmmaker (the genius behind STRIPTEASE!) was thinking, "Oh J. Susann is soooo tacky. Let's make the movie "crazy" and really kitschy, because everything in the 60's was soooo tacky." J. Susann was many things, but tacky seems kinda harsh. Don't play me cheap.
The run time of the Isn't She Great? is basically a made for TV movie run time sans commericals. The first 20 minutes blows past you in what seems to be prolonged montage. Showbiz ups and downs, married, diagnosed with breast cancer and an idea to hatch a plan to write a sexy/steamy book about the dirty side of Hollywood. That's is quite a bit to process. Bette plays J. Susann only one level. LOUD! She screams everything when she is not too busy getting in a zinger here and there.
Stockard Channing is on hand as J. Susann's best gal pal. It's like drunk Rizzo. Lots of tweed and cocktails. Smart hats and frowns. Bea Arthur did it better in Lucy Mame. Nathan Lane is horribly miscast as Susann's husband/agent. All he does is stand around looking like a bored gay puppy. He is in stone statue mode the whole movie. I don't know if he and Bette hated each or what, but the chemistry between them could start the next ice age. They fall in love while walking into a pond. Seriously. He goes around saying, "Isn't She Great?" to anyone who will listen.
J. Susann battles breast cancer which means Bette gets many Oscar clip moments. She will be on a real rager, screaming at God, then the next scene she will be making anal jokes. Isn't She Great? Tacky. Also, there is a lot of television watching in this movie. Like Bette sitting down and watching TV and we have to watch her do it. It's weird. And boring too!
An hour into the film, JS is on a grassroots book tour for VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. People are cornfused because they think it is a kids book. A really cool kids book as one editor calls it. The film roustabouts from bio pic drama to madcap high jinx at random. JS will say cocksucker at someone then immediately in the next scene will be having another talk with God. Finally, she bust out in her leopardess pantsuit and the movie races to it's finish. We have to watch her watch scenes from the movie version of VOTD, which she hates. The Love Machine years are boiled down to the fact that she has to go to parties alone. Have you always been curious about her book Once Is Not Enough? Me too! You get nothing here. It was a book and they made a movie about it. The end. Bette gets death cough outside the premiere and just as it is almost lights out for her we are treated to a flashback montage of all your favorite scenes of the FUCKING MOVIE we just watched! Then it's over.
It is everyone's fault. Honestly, I really, really wanted to like this movie. I super HATE the tag line on the poster that reads TALENT ISN'T EVERYTHING. Fuck off. The big screen just wasn't the right for it . A mini-series on HBO would be great! Some PLEASE get Sylvia O' Stayformore to play JS. She could nail it to the wall.