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Opinion

Lifetime movie bad... but not in a bad way

Rob Lowe and Paz Vega in Beautiful and Twisted, a not-very-good made-for-TV movie that's kind of fun... but don't tell anybody.

LIFETIME

Rob Lowe and Paz Vega in Beautiful and Twisted, a not-very-good made-for-TV movie that's kind of fun... but don't tell anybody.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/1/2015 (1571 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It's all a matter of attitude.

The difference between a bad movie that's just painfully bad and a bad movie that's somehow entertainingly good can be as simple as the movie's producers having embraced its badness and decided to have a bit of fun with it.

Consider, for example, some of the high-profile "fact-based" movies rolled out by TV's Lifetime network over the past couple of months. First came a couple of music-biography yarns, Aaliyah: Princess of R&B and Whitney, which were rather bad but seemed even worse because they took themselves seriously and pretended to believe they were good.

The latest Lifetime original, however -- Beautiful & Twisted, a ripped-from-the-headlines tale of greed, marital misbehaviour and murder, produced by and starring Rob Lowe -- is a bad movie that revels in its tackiness, amps up its tawdriness and emphasizes its campy qualities. And as a result, what might have been a channel-flip-inducing failure instead turns out to be a couple of hours of guilty-pleasure TV fun.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/1/2015 (1571 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It's all a matter of attitude.

The difference between a bad movie that's just painfully bad and a bad movie that's somehow entertainingly good can be as simple as the movie's producers having embraced its badness and decided to have a bit of fun with it.

Consider, for example, some of the high-profile "fact-based" movies rolled out by TV's Lifetime network over the past couple of months. First came a couple of music-biography yarns, Aaliyah: Princess of R&B and Whitney, which were rather bad but seemed even worse because they took themselves seriously and pretended to believe they were good.

The latest Lifetime original, however — Beautiful & Twisted, a ripped-from-the-headlines tale of greed, marital misbehaviour and murder, produced by and starring Rob Lowe — is a bad movie that revels in its tackiness, amps up its tawdriness and emphasizes its campy qualities. And as a result, what might have been a channel-flip-inducing failure instead turns out to be a couple of hours of guilty-pleasure TV fun.

Beautiful & Twisted dramatizes the real-life story of hotel-fortune heir Ben Novack Jr. (played by Lowe), who married and was eventually murdered by a gold-digging former-stripper wife with whom he couldn't stop being in love — despite clear indications that she had murderously avaricious intent.

When the movie opens, Novack is already toe-tagged and in a morgue drawer as wife Narcy (Paz Vega) makes a quick trip to the bank to grab the mounds of cash he'd kept stashed in a safety-deposit box. In a rather light-hearted tone, Lowe, as Novack — in from-beyond-the-slab voiceover — quickly offers to take us back to real beginning of the story, long before this nasty post-nuptial mess occurred.

As shown here, Novack is the product of neglectful parents who raised him at arm's length while amassing and then enjoying the fortune associated with Miami's famed Fountainebleau Hotel. Having been constantly exposed, as a young child, to high-society parties and a steady diet of what disembodied-voiceover Ben describes as "ass, boobs, drugs... all eye-high," the grown-up Novack turns out to be emotionally stunted and developmentally arrested (obsessed with cartoons and comic books, Batman in particular) but also prone to the booze, drugs and whores that are readily available to dumb people with money.

It's during one of his frequent visits to a local strip club that he meets Narcy, an exotic dancer with whom he becomes hopelessly obsessed. She tries to brush him off, but he won't be deterred; to Novack, Narcy is the Catwoman that he, the not-quite-caped crusader, must rescue from life's dark side.

Eventually, and inevitably, his persistence pays off; Narcy finally figures out that he's something more than a pathetic strip-club loser — instead, he's a very rich pathetic strip-club loser — and something vaguely resembling a love story begins.

It is, of course, a toxic coupling, one that Novack's mother, Bernice (Candice Bergen) opposes from the start. But Ben won't listen to her warnings, and also fails to clue in to the non-romantic reality when Narcy starts physically assaulting him, or when Bernice winds up dead, or when a couple of heavies beat the stuffing out of him shortly after he and Narcy have yet another argument about money.

Novack eventually figures it out — well, the movie-dramatized, voiced-from-the-afterlife version does, anyway — but not in time to save himself. His matter-of-fact observation that the missus is capable of murder is a bit too after-the-fact to be useful.

All that's left is for the movie's casually inept version of the Miami P.D. to finally get their woman.

Both onscreen and in voiceovers, Lowe — who has recently, in those goofy DirecTV ads as well as in the campy HBO movie Behind the Candelabra, demonstrated a willingness to shed any pretty-boy/leading-man assumptions that might still be associated with him — injects his character with just enough flakiness to make this otherwise-tragic tale kind of fun to watch.

Vega, as Narcy, also lends a sense of heightened reality to her performance, matching Lowe's doomed-loser husband with the cartoon-villain-ish spouse he deserves.

Nobody's likely to describe Beautiful & Twisted as a good movie, but anyone who tunes in to watch will have to concede that it's bad in an appealingly self-aware way.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @BradOswald

Brad Oswald

Brad Oswald
Perspectives Editor

After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.

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