Review: LA's beloved Angelyne gets the biopic treatment. Sadly, it's only skin deep

Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

The first episode, in which Angelyne, at the beginning of her public career, takes over her boyfriend's band, Baby Blue is the most risible, with its hackneyed band tropes and less than authentic portrayal of L.A.'s late-'70s music scene. But it does allow for the series' only substantial (quasi-)romantic relationship presented at enervating length, and it affords a place for the writers to put in young Angelyne's mouth character-defining real quotes from older Angelyne. She wants a car because "I have to know I can escape" — a Corvette, ideally, like Barbie's "starvette." And she wants to be like Barbie, because "she lives a painless existence — you can stick her with things and she won't cry. ... Wouldn't that be nice, never to be hurt?"

Sporting giant prosthetic breasts, already featured across the tabloidverse, Rossum is good, if a more polished version of the woman she's playing. (It's the obverse of most biopics, where the subject has more charisma than the person portraying them.) To Angelyne's breathy speech and cheesecake poses, her exclamatory squeals, borrowed from Monroe by way of Jayne Mansfield, she adds an actor's poise. One might imagine Angelyne enjoying the portrayal, which both takes her seriously and treats her like a star if it weren't insistent on showing more of the woman than the woman has shown herself. When Rossum briefly drops the voice and the pose, or when Angelyne is cornered or panicking, unexpectedly indicating a person beneath the pink carapace, things start to get interesting. But the filmmakers go only so far down that road — at least until the customary late-series flashback backstory.

"I am not a woman, I am an icon," Rossum's Angelyne will say at the top of the series — a two-dimensional thing. At the same time, the subject is a (mostly) flesh and blood person, clearly living her idea of her best life, with her purposeful positivity and supernatural interests, and doing no one harm. (The icon claim will repeat, in a psychological context.) Without the story Angelyne doesn't want to be told, there's no story worth rolling the cameras for. Indeed, one feels there is something a little shameful, or at least pointless, about dragging the carefully obscured details of her life into the public square, even with the names changed.

Still, I liked "Angelyne" better as it went on — there are some moments, as in a scene when the daughter of Angelyne's billboard benefactor (Kerry Norton) runs into her in a supermarket parking lot, that give you a much-needed sense of two humans speaking genuinely to each other — without ever being wholly convinced that it was a trip I needed to take. It's nothing to warn you away from, though, and that "Angelyne" lasts only five episodes is a point in its favor that other series creators and network executives might want to follow.




Rating: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under age 17 with an advisory for coarse language)

How to watch: Premiered Thursday on Peacock


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