Tuesday, May 25, 2010

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

One of Hollywood's most misunderstood/underused commodities, Wendy Malick has become something of a fixture on the small screen (mostly on sitcoms) but has yet to break through into movie theaters.

What are producers thinking?

Tall, regal and statuesque, Malick would have ruled screwball comedies in the 1930s and '40s, but modern big-screen roles have inexplicably evaded her, despite her (small) roles in Greg Mottola's "Adventureland" and P.J. Hogan's "Confessions of a Shopoholic" (both 2009).

Malick's one showcase was as the title stars of Alan Metzger's 1999 Lifetime TV movie, "Take My Advice: The Abby and Ann Story," in which the actress had a field day playing the feuding twin columnists, Ann Landers, ( Esther Friedman, aka Eppie) and Abigail Van Buren ( Pauline Friedman, aka Popo). The film itself is a game, scrappy stab at camp, but the revelation is Malick in one of the strangest (in a good sense) acting duets that I've ever seen. It's something of a surreal guilty pleasure to observe Malick, who has an inimitable way with line readings, particularly one-liners, trying to outact herself - and succeeding brilliantly.

She doesn't so much chew scenery as graze and luxuriate on it.

In her New York Times review, critic Anita Gates dismissed Metzgere's film as "trite and unimaginative." Say what? It's anything but.

Try finding "Take My Advice" these days. It's just about impossible.


J. Kaiser 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.

wwolfe said...

One of my favorite actresses, ever since I first saw her on HBO's "Dream On." Very funny on "Just Shoot Me," as well. You're absolutely right - she would have been a classic big screen screwball comedy star, back when Hollywood knew what to do with smart, funny, beautiful women. (Leo Teni is another actress who would have soared back then.) Of current actresses, only Holland Taylor has a similar gift for the dry, sardonic line-reading shown by Malick.

joe baltake said...

Bill, when you say Leo Teni, do you mean Téa Leoni? If so, I agree wholeheartedly. And Holland Taylor is something of a national treasure who has been wasted in supporting roles - supporting actors who are inferior to her. Taylor, Malick, Leoni, Kristen Johnston and Megan Mullally would have been perfect in a remake of "The Women" if it hasn't already been done.