COCAINE GODMOTHER Review: Like A Coke Trip Narrated By Your Lazy Uncle

Catherine Zeta-Jones, what are you doing in a Lifetime movie?

The life of Griselda Blanco seems like it would be a great pick to receive the biopic treatment. Known as the Cocaine Godmother during the height of Pablo Escobar's grip on the cocaine cartel and acting as one of his primary lieutenants in the United States, Blanco was respected and feared in a criminal culture that mainly saw women as commodities and rewards, making her a character worth studying merely by virtue of being an anomaly in her criminal field. However, you would need filmmakers who are actually interested in telling a story that revealed that character, and Cocaine Godmother was made for Lifetime.

Yes. This is a review of a made-for-TV Lifetime movie. It was co-produced by Asylum Entertainment. Get a couple of robot friends and board the Satellite of Love, because this is a film you'll need to riff your own MST3K-esque commentary track to get through it.

Cocaine Godmother starts with a shockingly dark scene where we see Blanco as a child in Columbia selling herself into prostitution and killing a john who refused to pay her. This should theoretically set the stage for the story of a woman hardened from young age to develop into an avatar of Hobbesian survivalism, but instead we just fast forward to Blanco at age seventeen without any real indication of happened in between, not that you can tell she's supposed to be a teenager considering that forty-eight-year-old Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones is portraying the character. The whitewashed casting is as bizarre a choice as Zeta-Jones's decision to take the part in the first place – she looks so bored and phones in every single scene, often to unintentionally hilarious deadpan effect – but what's particularly ridiculous is that next to no effort has been made to convey the passage of time through make-up to make Zeta-Jones look younger, so the film exists in this bizarre twilight zone where Blanco stays consistently middle-aged as her interchangeable children change actors and grow up around her.

And the film is dead set on covering as much ground as it can in a half-century of drug-running, so we're doing a lot of time jumping from event to event, character development and dramatic beats be damned. There's no sense of arc to this "story," and there seems to be no interest in exploring Blanco's character as anything more than the centerpiece to a collection of historical events. It's as if someone pulled up Griselda Blanco's Wikipedia article and copy-pasted the bullet points into their screenplay outline. There's even a bizarre scene where Blanco recounts the plot of The Godfather Part II, which reads as if the screenwriters got distracted by the little blue link leading to that film's page and decided their research tangent was worth integrating into their homunculus of plot and history.

To the film's credit, there is a half-hearted attempt at tying all these disparate scenes together with ADR narration from a DEA agent character, but he might just be the funniest part of the whole experience. He shows up with no introduction, affecting his best imitation of the framing narration from Narcos, but he doesn't contribute coherence so much as armchair commentary on what we're watching. As the film hard cuts between a sex scene to a hospital birth, Mr. Narrator helpfully contributes that this happened "about nine months later," and when a guy in a particularly gaudy suit shows up in the frame for a hot second, the narrator helpfully contributes "Hey, look at this guy!" And if you were hoping that his presence at least adds a semblance of structure to the lightning round trivia this film thinks constitutes drama, you would be woefully, hilariously mistaken.

Cocaine Godmother makes me hope that the rights to Griselda Blanco's life story aren't somehow tied up keeping her tale from being made into a real movie. By no means a good woman, she is at least a fascinating one, particularly in that she unapologetically took a same-sex lover for many years while married to various men, which shockingly enough lends this film one of the most casual portrayals of functional polyamory in any film I've seen. But that curiosity is treated as a background element to a barrage of nominally true events portrayed without pathos, as evidenced by one of the most ridiculously laid-back deaths by machete ever filmed. If my mentioning a machete out of the blue seems like a jarring way to end this review, just imagine what watching that scene play out is like. And then imagine grabbing a couple friends to laugh at the absurdity, because it's about the only way you're going to make it through this one.