Thursday, May 10, 2018

cinema obscura: Alan Metzger's ''Take My Advice: The Ann & Abby Story" (1999)

~and celebrating the fabulous Wendie Malick~
One of the more bizarre (and least known) guilty pleasures in my movie-watching experience is a title made by Alan Metzger for the Lifetime channel in 1999 - "Take My Advice: The Ann & Abby Story," about the feuding twin advice columnists, Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren.

The subject matter alone is irresistible - ersatz Ryan Murphy material that predates Murphy's equally shameless (and shamelessly entertaining) "Feud: Bette and Joan" by nearly 20 years. But adding to the delight of Metzger's film is his star, the criminally underused Wendy Malick, who has become something of a fixture on the small screen (mostly on disposable sitcoms) but has yet to break through in movies, let alone movie theaters.

What are producers thinking?

Tall, regal and statuesque, Malick would have ruled in screwball comedies by Howard Hawks and Preston Sturges in the 1930s and '40s. The studio heads would have loved her. But modern big-screen roles have inexplicably evaded her, despite supporting parts in small films scattered over the years  (such as Greg Mottola's "Adventureland" and P.J. Hogan's "Confessions of a Shopoholic," both from 2009).

She remains one of Hollywood's most misunderstood commodities.

Malick's one real showcase to date is as the title stars of "Take My Advice," in which she has a field day playing Landers (né Esther Friedman, aka Eppie) and Abby ( Pauline Friedman, aka Popo). The film itself is a game, scrappy stab at camp, but the revelation is Malick in a truly strange (in a good sense) acting duet that should have become more celebrated by now.

It is wildly surreal to observe Malick, who has an inimitable way with throwaway line readings, particularly trenchant one-liners, trying to upstage herself - and succeeding brilliantly. She doesn't so much chew scenery as graze and luxuriate on it. Acting bliss.

Lifetime released "Take My Advice: The Ann & Abby Story," on DVD briefly several years back and, while it's now just about impossible to find, it's worth the effort.

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(from top) 

~poster art for "Take My Advice: The Ann & Abby Story"

~Wendie Malick as Abigail (Abby) Van Buren  ( Pauline Friedman, aka Popo)
~Malick as Ann Landers  (né Esther Friedman, aka Eppie)

~Photography: Lifetime 1999©


John K. said...

I've loved Wendy Malik ever since she appeared in the episode "Cybil with an S" on "Cybil". She is one hell of a funny lady.

Charlotte said...

It bothers me when people complain that movie stars aren't what they used to be. Heck, Malick is the modern Rosalind Russell. Years ago, she could have pulled off "His Girl Friday." And I'd love to see her play "Auntie Mame." Yes, what are producers thinking?

wwolfe said...

I've been a fan for years. Probably her defining role is in the early HBO comedy, "Dream On," as the object of star Brian Benben's obsessions. Thanks for the essay - I'll have to try to hunt this movie down.

Alex said...

She was very, very funny on "Just Shoot Me." You're correct when you write that Malick would have been a classic big screen screwball comedy star, back when Hollywood knew what to do with smart, funny, beautiful women.

deirdre said...

You know, Malick, Holland Taylor, Kristen Johnston, Allison Janney and Megan Mullally all would have been big film stars back in the say. A decade ago, they would have been perfect in a remake of "The Women" if it hadn't already been done.