3 1/2 Stars
Rob Lowe executive produced and stars in this off-beat and highly entertaining television movie, chronicling the sordid love affair between a mega rich/eccentric hotel heir and his wife, a former stripper turned murderer. Balancing a campy tone with real life violence, this is based on a whacked out true story, can be a difficult act. For the most part Beautiful & Twisted manages to be successful. Finding cinematic inspiration that ranges from Mommie Dearest to Fargo, the filmmakers have applied a stylized touch to material that is darker than the visual design would suggest.
Ben Novak Jr’s (Rob Lowe) childhood was spent amongst movie stars, singers, and heads of state, all of whom were residents at his father’s landmark hotel, the Fountain-bleu. As a child the boy was surrounded by adults not much interested in children, so Ben resigned into the world of comic-books and superheroes, his favorite being Batman. This obsession with the caped crusader would follow the fanatic into his adult life, resulting in the second largest Batman memorable collection in the world. Novak’s love of all things Batman, is represented in an early scene in which the love-lorn millionaire comes to the rescue of his romantic interest. This short sequence is shot, light, and staged in an homage to the Burton’ Batman films. In doing this, Beautiful & Twisted, lets on that it is up to something more creative and imaginative than is the norm for a Lifetime channel premiere.
Narcy (Paz Vega), is a single mom who works nights dancing at a strip club. She catches Ben’s eye one evening while performing and the hotel magnate becomes infatuated. Their courtship is bumpy, a few spats of domestic violence, one case splits Ben’s head open, but eventually the pair are married. This doesn’t sit well with Ben’s mother, Bernice (Candice Bergen). At the ceremony Narcy introduces Ben to her mysterious and very unhappy brother, Cristobal.
Wedded bliss is short-lived as the couple’s problems become evident to everyone in their lives. Ben’s drug use and infidelity causes Narcy to react violently to her discover of his cheating and lies, but her method of revenge becomes brutal and as the title states, twisted. No one is safe from the wrath of Narcy or her ever ready goon-squad on hand to do her bidding. Ben suspects her of poisoning his mother and orchestrating her grisly demise, Narcy denies the accusation but her behavior proves suspicious, at best.
Adapted from Julie Brown’s piece in the Miami Herald, Beautiful & Twisted is something of an unexpected delight This is a surefire bio-pic from a channel, not know for creative daring. Sure, this is essential one gigantic pile of clichés, but there’s no denying this outlandish true-crime story works you over anyway.
Director: Christopher Zalla
Stars: Rob Lowe, Paz Vega, Candice Bergen