'Anna Nicole': We watch Lifetime movie so you don't have to
Last night, Lifetime premiered its destined to be Peabody-, Emmy-, Golden Globe-, and (why not?) Nobel Prize-winning film Anna Nicole. A prestigious (and I must add, courageous) group of EW staffers convened at my apartment to see whether the biopic could give Citizen Kane a run for its money. Read on for a sampling of our reactions to Anna Nicole.
8 p.m.: Any movie that starts with a dead woman defining herself as a “balls-to-the-wall party girl” is my kind of movie.
8:01 p.m.: The credits begin to roll, in Brush Script MT font no less (classy!), and this exchange goes down–
Maricela Gonzalez: Martin Landau’s in this?
Denise Warner: That’s sad for him!
Me from 20 minutes in the future: Girl, you have no idea.
8:02 p.m.: Young Vickie Lynn Hogan (the little girl who would grow up to be Anna Nicole Smith) gets her first glimpse at Playboy. Even with that promise of titillation to come, Darren Franich looks over at Deven Persaud — the only other guy in the room — and laughs, “Deven’s already checked out!”
8:03 p.m.: After Virginia Madsen, as Anna Nicole’s sheriff mother Virgie Arthur, tells her sister’s “scumbag” abusive boyfriend never to come back to her house again, then fires her pistol for emphasis–
Denise: Remember when Virginia Madsen was an Oscar-nominated actress?
Darren: So few people have squandered that opportunity…
8:04 p.m.: GHOST ANNA NICOLE ALERT! Vickie Lynn sees her future self in a mirror, dressed as Marilyn Monroe! Darren: “Man, Katharine McPhee looks great in this.” Ladies and gentlemen, it’s never the wrong time for a Smash joke.
8:05 p.m.: Virgie tells Vickie Lynn that putting on makeup and stuffing her bra will lead to “ballin’ some boy in the back seat of a Buick.” Alliterative and graphic!
8:09 p.m.: In her D- review, Melissa Maerz advised viewers, “The only way to get through the whole thing is to take a shot of peach schnapps whenever Smith blows kisses, pole dances, or trips and falls down.” Well, Ghost Anna Nicole just blew her first kiss, so… SHOT!
8:10 p.m.: To ease her nerves over her first time stepping up to the pole, Vickie Lynn downs a Xanax and a glass of champagne. And so the downward spiral begins…
8:11 p.m.: Vickie Lynn just tripped while pole dancing, then practiced pole dancing in front of her toddler son Daniel (Luke Donaldson) on his school’s tetherball pole. We haven’t even gotten to the first commercial break, and I’m already starting to feel like I’m introducing Kanye West at the American Music Awards.
8:12 p.m.: A defining moment. Does Vickie Lynn want peaches, grapefruits, or cantaloupes? I’m talking about boobs, of course. Correct answer: None of the above; it’s bowling balls all the way. And she paid for that mess in $1 bills. (Click here to read what costume designer Deborah Everton had to say about star Agnes Bruckner’s transformation.)
8:15 p.m.: Ghost Anna Nicole makes her third appearance, and Deven notes, “I could set a clock by this. Every five minutes.”
8:16 p.m.: Vickie Lynn poses for her Playboy test shoot. The same guy who dismissed her awkward first dance at the club is the photographer — and apparently the budget for Bruckner’s chicken cutlets had to dip into this guy’s wardrobe because he only has one shirt.
8:23 p.m.: Fresh off paying for her Playboy pics in lap dances, Vickie Lynn scores an even bigger fish in wheelchair-bound J. Howard Marshall (Landau). The Oscar-winning actor has such a look of shock on his face during his entire first scene, it’s as if he just realized he’s in this movie.
8:26 p.m.: FORESHADOWING ALERT! Anna Nicole tells her sugar daddy, “I want people the world over to know who I am. To whisper to a friend when I walk in, ‘That’s her.’ I want to grace the pages of magazines printed in 60 different languages, star in my own TV show, stand 50 feet tall on that silver screen. I got big dreams, J. Howard Marshall.”
8:27 p.m.: “Lady Love” tells “Paw Paw” she loves him for the first time. Precisely one minute later, young Daniel (Caleb Barwick) thanks “Paw Paw” for a gift, and the too-close-for-comfort groan shakes the room.
8:28 p.m.: Shopping montage!
8:30 p.m.: After J. Howard introduces his son E. Pierce (Cary Elwes) to Vickie Lynn, she quips, “You Marshalls are big on initials, huh? You can call me V. Lynn if it makes you more comfortable.” According to Deven, “That was the most realistic piece of dialogue in this movie.”
8:31 p.m.: E. Pierce throws down the gauntlet, calling Vickie Lynn a “white trash pole dancer” who’ll never get his father’s money. We all know who won that war.
8:32 p.m.: Greaseball Photographer Guy got another shirt. Good for him.
8:39 p.m.: I begin to question the film’s journalistic integrity when Vickie Lynn is nervous during her first Playboy shoot. She’s a stripper, people!
8:40 p.m.: Playboy montage! Marciano (played as a vaguely creepy European dude who says things like, “She’s the kind of girl I used to dream of when I was 14”) launches her modeling career for Guess. And so Anna Nicole Smith is born!
8:42 p.m.: Pills, pool boys, and the L.A. home where Marilyn Monroe once lived. What could possibly go wrong?
8:46 p.m.: After Anna Nicole gets champagne-and-Xanax-wasted at a NASCAR rally, flashes a bunch of frat boys, and makes out with another woman in a glass elevator, has Deven checked back in?
8:47 p.m.: Why yes, yes he has. Young Daniel walks in and shuts down the Sapphic makeout session, Deven complains, “This kid has the worst timing ever!” (Proving Deven’s theory, Daniel later walks in right as Anna Nicole loses her Guess contract, and then he dies in her hospital room after she gives birth to baby Dannielynn. Three’s a trend!)
8:48 p.m.: Shamed by her son and with the taste of fresh vomit in her mouth, Anna Nicole pours her pills in the toilet and vows to clean up. We’ve all been there, amirite ladies?
8:55 p.m.: New contender for most realistic dialogue: Fried clam lover J. Howard tells E. Pierce (who’s just brought pictures of Anna Nicole’s lesbian romp), “Get the hell outta here. You’re stinkin’ up my seafood.”
8:56 p.m.: Anna Nicole leaves for a photo shoot in Greece just hours after marrying J. Howard. One EW staffer (name redacted to protect the innocent) might have needed a tissue at this point.
NEXT: The second hour, including the arrival of Howard K. Stern, “TrimSpa, baby!” and one very sad clown
9:05 p.m.: First sighting of sleazeball lawyer Howard K. Stern (Adam Goldberg). Cue the Inception horn!
9:07 p.m.: Anna Nicole drops a pill into her and Howard’s drinks and tells him it’s “F-U-N. Fun!” Well there’s your Emmy reel moment.
9:09 p.m.: After seriously putting some double-stick tape to work in a dress that may or may not have been put on backward, Anna Nicole compares J. Howard and Howard K. to JFK and Joe DiMaggio. All American historians just reflexively threw up in their mouths a little.
9:11 p.m.: Howard massages Anna’s feet while talking about financing her instaclassic Skyscraper. Maricela asks, “Wait, he’s her lawyer?”
9:13 p.m.: Single grossest segue in the film: Anna Nicole seduces J. Howard on his deathbed to get money for her movie… cut to J. Howard’s funeral as Anna Nicole sings “Amazing Grace” to her dead husband — in her wedding dress. The room bursts forth with a resounding, “Noooooooooo!”
9:17 p.m.: Noticing it’s been a while since Ghost Anna Nicole has popped up, Sarah Caldwell asks, “What are the odds that she’ll see a ghost baby version of herself at the end?”
9:20 p.m.: It’s time for The Anna Nicole Show, and we meet the fourth and final Daniel of the night (Graham Patrick Martin). I note that these kids look nothing like each other or actual Daniel, and Darren says, “It’s like the young Dick Whitman during this season of Mad Men.” Comparing Anna Nicole to Mad Men is almost as far-fetched as comparing Howard K. Stern to JFK.
9:23 p.m.: Apparently the wardrobe department decided to skimp on fat suit budget in favor of telling Bruckner to stuff her face for the entire duration of the Anna Nicole Show segments. We are not convinced. (Points for re-enacting this epic eating contest fight, though.)
9:24 p.m.: GHOST CHILD VICKIE LYNN ALERT!
9:27 p.m.: Did I accidentally flip the channel to Shallow Hal? Oh, no, that’s just Virginia Madsen in a fat suit.
9:33 p.m.: This movie has seriously given up on all attempts at accuracy. Anna Nicole is shown running and vacuuming in back-to-back scenes. (Oh yeah, and the entire plot point about Daniel’s sudden, tragic overdose.)
9:34 p.m.: Anna Nicole seduces Howard to stave off empty nest feelings. Never one to go for the obvious (like the obvious factual mistake that Howard K. Stern would not have flinched for even a second at this opportunity), Denise wonders aloud, “Why is he wearing a belt in bed?”
9:35 p.m.: Larry Birkhead (Donny Boaz) has arrived, folks. And, per Denise, apparently so has a new wig line from Billy Ray Cyrus.
9:37 p.m.: Court battle coverage. Booooring. And it’s been nearly an hour since we’ve taken a shot of peach schnapps. Not cool, movie. Not cool.
9:38 p.m.: Pregnant Anna goes on a champagne binge and stumbles on top of a bar. That’s more like it!
9:48 p.m.: Time for “that clown show from Hell.” True fact: I tried to watch the original video and had to quit before a minute had even passed. For this assignment, I didn’t have that option.
9:49 p.m.: Callie Brook McClincy, the girl playing the neighbor’s kid, just became the night’s MVP when she said, “She’s having brain trouble. Brain trouble.”
9:50 p.m.: GHOST CHILD VICKIE LYNN ALERT! And her lips are blue! The end is nigh.
9:55 p.m.: Mandatory flashback to toddler Daniel. No jokes here. That kid’s death was totally sad and unnecessary.
9:58 p.m.: The belabored mirror motif staggers to completion in the film’s final minutes as Anna Nicole speculates on all the people she could blame for her turbulent life, then says, “If I’m looking for the real culprit, for what I let happen to my own flesh and blood, the mirror’s where I gotta begin, middle, and end.”
10 p.m.: And so she does. As Anna Nicole walks past a funhouse of mirrors and into the blinding light of the paparazzi (her personal heaven), the number of schnapps shots tallies up to 11, making our own images in the mirror all the blurrier.