Agnes Bruckner plays Anna Nicole Smith in the eponymous Lifetime movie

Anna Nicole
June 29 at 7 CST
Lifetime  

Anna Nicole Smith disappointed the hell out of us Houstonians, didn’t she?

In the early ’90s, the late pinup model and one-time Playboy Playmate of the Year seemed like the perfect antidote to the stick-figure supermodels that dominated the decade, a busty, voluptuous throwback to the days of Monroe, Mansfield, and Ekberg. And, more importantly, she was one of our own.

That was before we learned of her stripper past, her rampant drug use, her reckless partying, her breast implants, and her relentless need for a rich, old dude to take care of her. She would eventually find said old dude and marry him, turning her into both a gold-digging hussy and a national punch line in the public’s eyes. I don’t know about any of you, but I found it all very upsetting.

Anna Nicole, the Lifetime channel’s latest, brazenly ridiculous, made-for-TV biopic (it airs Saturday night), recaptures Smith’s story in all its WTF glory. In the movie, little Vickie Lynn Hogan grows up in an abusive household, with a dismissive mom (Virginia Madsen, basically doing an impression of Kristen Wiig whenever she played trailer trash on SNL) and a touchy-feely stepdad. Thankfully, the old man kept Playboys under his bed, giving our little lady hope that she’ll break out of this hick hell by finding somewhere to get naked.

Cut to her young adult years. Single mom Vickie (now played by Agnes Bruckner) finds a strip club to display her assets. She gets enough in tips to expand her chest and turn into Anna Nicole Smith, the Marilyn Monroe doppelgänger she wanted to be since she was a kid. This gets her the attention of J. Howard Marshall (Martin Landau – Jesus, he’s still alive?), a wheelchair-bound oil tycoon who shows up at the club one day and is immediately smitten.

Anna Nicole achieves her dream of making it into Playboy and scores a Guess? Jeans modeling contract that she pisses away thanks to her public displays of lewd and drunken behavior. As a security blanket, she marries the old man, much to the dismay of his son, E. Pierce (a bitchy Cary Elwes) – or, as Anna Nicole calls him in her voice-over narration, “E. Prick.”

The years preceding her death are even more deranged. While fighting with E. Prick over his old man’s estate after his death, she becomes one of the first celebs to star in her own reality show, which reliably showed her at her most bloated and boozy. She shacked up with some photographer named Larry, giving birth to a daughter before losing her son to a drug overdose. It only seemed a matter of time before she did the same.

At this point, I should point out that Anna Nicole is directed by Mary Harron – yes, the same filmmaker who turned Christian Bale into a scary, chiseled delight in her adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho. Apart from a couple of well-photographed moments, you would never guess that a director like her would slum in a freakin’ Lifetime movie. (Then again, Lifetime is beginning to become a safe haven for once-acclaimed female directors. Last month’s Ring of Fire, starring Jewel as June Carter Cash, was directed by Gas Food Lodging’s Allison Anders.)

I can’t figure out if it was Harron’s intention to make this movie as deliriously ludicrous as possible, just to show how much of a train wreck Smith’s life was, or if the film just came out that way.  Either way, it definitely doesn’t do any wonders for Smith’s legacy. Bruckner plays Smith as a textbook, emotionally needy, usually pathetic mess, pathologically putting on a rosy-cheeked smile to get what she wants and then predictably disappointing people when she royally messes up.

As accurate as the movie is in dramatizing the wall-to-wall insanity that was this woman’s life, the cheaply made and utterly unrefined Anna Nicole is still an awful (and awfully sad) thing to witness. So much for Liz & Dick being the worst thing Lifetime has ever made.

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