Isn't She Great

In a word, no. This candy-colored, tart-tongued riff on the life and career of defiantly trashy novelist Jacqueline Susann (Bette Midler) contains several profanely amusing moments, but they don't add up to much. Based on a New Yorker magazine piece by Michael Korda, one of Susann's editors, the film actually feels constrained by the need to stay somewhere...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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In a word, no. This candy-colored, tart-tongued riff on the life and career of defiantly trashy novelist Jacqueline Susann (Bette Midler) contains several profanely amusing moments, but they don't add up to much. Based on a New Yorker

magazine piece by Michael Korda, one of Susann's editors, the film actually feels constrained by the need to stay somewhere in the vicinity of the facts of her life; it might have been better off as pure fiction about a Jacqueline Susann-like novelist. The milestones are there: Susann's career as

a second-string actress; her marriage to Irving Mansfield (Nathan Lane), her manager and tireless booster; the writing of Valley of the Dolls, the much-rejected novel that went on to become a spectacular bestseller; the birth of Susann's autistic son; the battle with breast cancer, which

eventually killed her. And the movie's refreshing conceit is that once Susann achieves the fame she craves, she's as happy as a pig in mud. Susann's books may wallow in the degrading downside of celebrity, but she works like a galley slave to make sure the limelight never dims. Midler's

performance is flamboyant, but one-dimensional, and the movie is desperately shallow; Susann's life (well-chronicled in the cable movie Scandalous Me) was far darker and more bizarre than you'd ever know. In an ideal world, ISN'T SHE GREAT would have been a theater piece, a series of

blackout sketches performed by Pucci-clad drag queens with sky-high hair. It's filled with bitchy exchanges, camp fashion and colorful supporting characters, including Susann's best friend, a thoroughly self-absorbed actress (the brilliantly funny Stockard Channing); with-it publisher Henry Marcus

(John Cleese, in an orange Nehru jacket); and stuffy editor Michael Hastings (David Hyde-Pierce), who's nearly paralyzed with horror when he realizes that not only is Valley of the Dolls going to be published, but he's going to have to work on it.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: R
  • Review: In a word, no. This candy-colored, tart-tongued riff on the life and career of defiantly trashy novelist Jacqueline Susann (Bette Midler) contains several profanely amusing moments, but they don't add up to much. Based on a New Yorker magazine piece by Mi… (more)

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