On-Line Review by Christian Leopold Shea:


© 2000 by Christian Leopold Shea. All rights reserved.

A Universal Picture

Starring: Bette Midler, Nathan Lane, Stockard Channing, David Hyde-Pierce, Amanda Peet, Jason Fuchs, John Larroquette, and John Cleese

Music by Burt Bacharach

Screenplay by Paul Rudnick from an article by Michael Korda

Directed by Andrew Bergman

MPAA rating: R, no one under 17 without parent or guardian. (As if people under 17 don't use "the 'F' word -- but the "c-s" word is used once, and that alone is enough to put the MPAA's panties in a bunch!)

The stars: Left to right, Hyde-Pierce, Peet, Cleese, Midler, and Lane.

Isn't She Great is a fictionalized account of the life of Valley of the Dolls novelist Jacqueline Susann (played by Midler) and her husband Irving Mansfield (played by Lane). Girls, this is a diva's delight!

Written by Rudnick and directed by Bergman with tongues so far in cheek that it resembles a vulgar sight gag, this is Midler at her best: brilliant, bubbly and bawdy, and Lane at his best: brilliant, bubbly and bawdy, but not, unfortunately singing. Midler certainly sings, though, and in one scene her Jacqueline Susann upstages Steve and Edie! Stockard Channing gives an Oscar®-worthy turn as Susann's best friend, Florence Maybelle, and David Hyde-Pierce is mah-velous as Michael Hastings, the stuffy literary editor whose life is turned upside down when Cleese and Peet's characters decide that he should edit Susann's trashy novel of sex, drugs, and movie stars. (The impact of Susann and Mansfield on his upper-crust Connecticut family is wickedly funny -- Midler's chemistry with the matriarchs of the Hastings family is certain to become a staple of the acts of Midler impersonators in the future.)

Irving Mansfield and Jacqueline Susann about to turn the Hastings family inside-out.

Behind all of the laughter, however, due attention is paid to Susann's tragic private life: a rocky career beginning, an autistic son, and, finally, breast cancer. Midler, who showed that she can excel in dramatic roles long ago in The Rose, is more than a match for Jacqueline Susann's life, however, for Susann never gave up fighting and, if this pseudo-biography is to be believed, she laughed all the way to the end of her too-brief life.

Amanda Peet plays the zealous Debbie Klausman, whose support for Valley of the Dolls turns the publishing world topsy-turvy.

Universal Pictures suffered badly at the box office for several years, but Isn't She Great shows that they are definitely under new (and I dare say much better) management. Last year I expressed misgivings about making Oscar® predictions early in the year, but I have no such reluctance with Isn't She Great. Midler and Lane will certainly be pushed for awards by Universal, and Channing, as mentioned, definitely deserves a nomination. Adapted Screenplay, direction, editing, possibly costume design . . . off-hand, I can think of at least eight possible Oscar® nominations for which Isn't She Great can hope, and at least three in which -- whatever the rest of 2000 brings -- it will remain a strong contender.

Will that be an Oscar® in Stockard Channing's hand next year?

Isn't She Great may not do boffo box office on its opening weekend, but it will certainly play on and on and on at theaters in major cities, and it is not difficult to forsee knock-offs of the star's clothes gracing the streets of many cities during Mardi Gras and The Great High Holy Day of the Divine Miss M's most devoted fans, Halloween.

Is she great? YES! Isn't She Great is the first great movie of Y2K.

John Cleese plays Henry Marcus, the publisher who turns Susann into the top-selling novelist in the world.

With the rise in theater ticket prices and the growing international audience of our page, our old NW2: Not Worth $2 (U. S. dollars) to W8: Worth $8 rating scale has become less useful than previously, so, in line with the scale used by the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) we have adopted a scale of 1 star to 10 stars, with "1 Star" being a VERY bad movie, and "10 Stars" being a movie classic. Our On-Line Reviewer, however, has gone where IMDb has never gone before: he has added a score of Zero for those movies which are so bad that they are not even good "camp" -- movies so bad that not even "Mystery Science Theater 3000" could could make them worth watching.

On this scale, anything rated "7 Stars" or above is definitely worth the cost of a theater ticket, "8 Stars" is worth standing in line to buy a ticket, "9 Stars" is worth standing in line in a driving rain rainstorm or severe heatwave or moderate windstorm to buy a ticket, and "10 Stars" is a movie worth driving hundreds of miles to go see -- at least in Dr. Shea's own opinion. Accordingly,

ISN'T SHE GREAT is an 8 Star movie.

Go see it!

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