Isn't She Great [2000]

Most people probably approached Isn't She Great looking for a screaming camp-fest, only to discover a surprisingly sincere love letter to trash-novelist Jacqueline Susann, author of Valley of the Dolls and Once Is Not Enough. Bette Midler plays the brash, self-obsessed Susann, who started as a struggling actress yearning for fame and not too picky about what she was famous for. Fortunately, she catches the eye of personal manager Irving Mansfield (Nathan Lane), who seems to have no particular skills either but who is so passionately devoted to his client that he marries her. It's Irving who first suggests that Susann write a book about the sordid lives of celebrities and beautiful people, and Irving who pushes the book to publisher after publisher with dogged devotion. The movie lurches a bit in Susann's early life--it wants to approach the difficulties of Susann's life (an autistic son, breast cancer) with a mixture of sentimentality and irreverence, which doesn't always mesh--but once Valley of the Dolls finds a publisher, the movie finds its legs. The ever-dependable David Hyde Pierce plays the uptight WASP assigned to edit Susann's manuscript, and much mileage is gotten out of the conflict between Pierce's blue-blood manner and Midler's broad Jewish glitz. John Cleese and Stockard Channing also provide able support. Paul Rudnick's script shows a genuine affection for its heroine; Rudnick also wrote the screenplays for Addams Family Values and In and Out. --Bret Fetzer

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