Very talented and once-promising director Mary Harron directed The Anna Nicole Story for Lifetime, and the first teaser should double as a promo reel for her inevitable gig directing The Courtney Love Story.
But seriously, if Mary Harron directed a movie based on Courtney Love's life, I'd probably watch the hell out of it. I'm not sure where we lost Mary Harron, one of our strongest female directors and the woman who brought Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho to the big screen. She went on to direct the Bettie Page biopic, The Notorious Bettie Page, for HBO, and I'd say that's a fairly underrated movie -- it's definitely one of the better HBO original films (then again, I really liked Norma Jean and Marilyn, so). Last year, Harron released The Moth Diaries, an atrocious teen vampire film that had some engaging visuals, but little else of substance with its tepid script and movie-of-the-week acting. What did Mary Harron do to deserve being hauled off to Director Ghetto?
Anyway, here's the teaser for Lifetime's The Anna Nicole Story, based on the tragic life of Anna Nicole Smith and starring Agnes Bruckner in the lead role, minus any of those troublesome weight fluctuations. Smith's story is a tragic but familiar one: born in Texas, she worked at Red Lobster and Wal-Mart before becoming a stripper, and eventually a Playboy model and sometimes actress. While doing a stripping gig at a Houston club, she met and married an octogenarian named J. Howard Marshall. The pair married, and when her elderly husband passed away a couple of years later, a highly-publicized battle ensued over his estate, with his son's attorneys giving Smith the third degree about whether or not she actually loved the old man -- spoiler: I'm pretty sure she did. That case dragged on for 10 years, eventually heading to the supreme court, with the Bush administration intervening on Smith's behalf to help settle the dispute.
But her life started veering wildly in the early '00s. Her weight fluctuations were ridiculed in the tabloids, and her reality show on E! -- The Anna Nicole Smith Show, obviously -- only exacerbated the public's cruel perception of her. Smith was an emblem of tabloid culture, and we watched the sad rollercoaster of her life play out in real-time. She became addicted to prescription pills, and her teen son Daniel died right when she gave birth to a daughter in 2006, sending her further down the spiral. Her attorney, Howard K. Stern, and an entertainment photographer named Larry Birkhead both fought to prove paternity of Smith's new baby, and when Smith died from an overdose in 2007, suspicions arose that Stern may have been enabling her pill addiction.
This is exactly the kind of story the Lifetime network loves: a sensational tale involving sex, drugs and tabloids. It's not in service to Smith's memory, and while I think Mary Harron could do much better than directing an Anna Nicole Smith biopic for one of the worst networks in television history, I think the Lifetime channel could do a lot worse than Harron. These true story movies that Lifetime peddles are so tone-deaf -- take the Drew Peterson movie starring Rob Lowe, for instance. It was a laugh riot.
Lifetime bills itself as "television for women," but this Anna Nicole Smith biopic is anything but. It's a film that banks off the tabloid perception of Smith, and tabloid culture is encouraging women to cannibalize each other. What set Smith apart from some other celebrities, though, was her willingness to put her life out there. She consistently exploited her own body for profit -- when she eventually lost weight in 2003, she became the spokesmodel for TrimSpa, and starred in Kanye West's music video for "The New Workout Plan."
Her reality show has become an eerie time capsule, like watching the lethargic stumble before the fall. It's sad and sort of amusing, like when that video was released of Smith, doped up on something, covered in clown make-up and mumbling like a baby by her pool. That video made plenty of money for her, but there's always been questions about her mental competency in making these deals. Was she too doped up on pills to know any better? Was her lawyer and part-time lover Howard K. Stern partially responsible, not only for her death, but for the way she exploited herself in her darker years? I doubt this Lifetime biopic is going to answer any of those questions.