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Lonely Lady, The
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by Jack Sommersby

"Screenwriting Couch 101"
1 stars

Winner of six Razzies including Worst Picture, though the nominated Travolta/Newton-John calamity "Two of a Kind" is actually worse and would've easily gotten my vote.

The Lonely Lady, a trashy adaptation of best-selling author Harold Robbins's trashy novel, is never boring and has a passable performance by Pia Zadora in her first starring role, but the movie's a mess from start to finish, with a crude ultra-obviousness to it that wouldn't be half as embarrassing if the moviemakers weren't taking themselves so seriously. It's another of those Hollywood-skewering tales where an aspiring artist tries making it in the business through talent alone but soon finds that sleeping with the right people is what it ultimately takes to succeed; suffice to say, it breaks absolutely no new ground, and, worse, winds up shamefully exploiting and reveling in the same malodorous behavior it only pretends to deplore. The heroine is one Jerilee Randall (Zadora), who's just graduated from a San Fernando Valley school with an award for Most Promising English Major for outstanding contributions in creative writing; and the movie is so anxious in piling on the debauchery that at the party Jerilee attends that night at a celebrated screenwriter's house she's the object of lewd advances (with someone even remarking that her trophy looks like a penis), and later assaulted and almost sodomized with a garden house by a drunken, coked-up lout, and we're not fifteen minutes into the running time. Jerilee just can't get a break. Against her mother's wishes she winds up marrying the much-older screenwriter, who's both impotent on their wedding night and later resentful over her offering improvements on his problematic script currently being filmed. They separate, and Jerilee starts up an affair with a semi-famous actor she knows is married; he suddenly breaks it off, she finds out she's pregnant, he won't take her calls, and she has an abortion. In between all of this Jerilee's had two best-selling books of short stories published, and has managed to complete her first screenplay, which she can't get into play because she can't find an agent who doesn't want to get her on the screenwriting couch. The moviemakers endlessly pile on the zenith-level cynicism and make Jerilee as naive as a Wisconsin dairy-farm girl, even having her sleep with a sleazy big-time nightclub owner with big-time producer friends he keeps assuring her he's passing her screenplay to -- he isn't, of course, and in a series of ever-more tasteless scenes we see Jerilee used and abused by even more moral degenerates until she finally manages to see her screenplay realized by ceding to an invidious sexual demand. At an Oscar ceremony a year later she arrives alone on the red carpet ("She can't be anybody if she doesn't have an escort," a spectator remarks), and onstage after winning for best-original-screenplay (ironic in a movie without a single original thing about it) she chastens the Hollywood establishment for their fuck-or-fail mantra and walks off without her award to a chorus of boos.

Robbins can get by with his literary pretentiousness because he writes reasonably erotic sex passages (they help you overlook his defunctness for narrative structure and functional dialogue), but the movie has all the erotic appeal of a Tupperware convention, with a grinding unpleasantness to it that'd be offensive if you could give a damn about Jerilee's arduous plight. We're supposed to buy her educational acuteness because she's able to name female writing greats Gertrude Stein and Dorothy Parker, and quote Ernest Hemingway's "It's better to go out in a blaze of youth than live with a shattered body," but Jerilee simply comes off as a flake, a talking-head mouthpiece and sacrificial lamb for the moviemakers to dump on at each and every turn in their jejune effort to "tell us something" about the way it really is in Tinseltown. The Lonely Lady is high-minded, heavy-handed nonsense, playing straight what Blake Edwards's S.O.B. smartly satirized just two years prior -- you keep waiting for Jerilee, who's forever slow on the take, to wake up. She gets offended when someone says, "Hey, honey, with a figure like yours, you don't have to think," and is vehement to her husband's advice "In this business, you can't afford self-respect." What bubble has Jerilee been living in all these years? She's been made into a gullible with the frailest of sensibilities, and winds up in a mental institution with paranoia and hallucinations brought on by drug and alcohol abuse because harsh realities are too much for her. The way the movie tells it, Jerille, whose short stories dealt with war and violence that have nothing to do with her, is courageous once she's clean and sober in tearing up her screenplay and writing a new one that details the trials and tribulations she's gone through, titled The Holdout, though her agreeing to sleep with a lesbian producer to see her screenplay to fruition actually negates her as a holdout. It's an impossible role, and Zadora, whose carnal sexuality as the Lolita-like nyphet in the unintentionally campy Butterfly the year before was admittedly tantalizing, and who bares even more of her luscious body here in several gratuitous but not completely-unwelcome instances, isn't enough of an actress to make anything more of it. Yet it's hard to see how any actress could, and the majority of the critical venom directed at Zadora might be unwarranted -- if she'd kept her clothes on throughout, I doubt her performance would have gotten as much drubbing: a beautiful but limited actress willing to constantly disrobe while playing someone fed up with being judged by her looks than talent was just asking for trouble. Much more worthy of scorn is the abysmal directing of TV veteran Peter Sasdy, who's been steadily employed for twenty-four years for no discernible reason, and the wretched title song "Lonely Lady," whose awfulness is superceded only by the unbearable instrumental version of it throughout as Jerliee's "theme."

Still not available on DVD, but "Butterfly" is, so those hungering for some Zadora nudity in digital clarity have that as an option.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=25493&reviewer=327
originally posted: 07/28/13 12:56:01
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  30-Sep-1983 (R)


  20-Oct-1983 (M)

Directed by
  Peter Sasdy

Written by
  Ellen Shepard
  John Kershaw
  Shawn Randall

  Pia Zadora
  Lloyd Bochner
  Bibi Besch
  Joseph Cali
  Ray Liotta

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