Up Close & Personal

on March 01, 1996 by Joe McBride
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   Seldom in recent memory has any film had so little to do with its ostensible source material as does this Touchstone/Cinergi effort. What began as a screen adaptation of a biography (Alanna Nash's "Golden Girl") of self-destructive TV anchorwoman Jessica Savitch somehow metamorphosed into a moony romance with little on its mind beyond showing off the good looks of Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Redford. The meteoric rise to TV stardom of the ambitious, gorgeous but glaringly untalented Tally Atwater (Pfeiffer) would seem to be the stuff of tragedy (as it was for Savitch) or satire (as in last year's delicious black comedy, "To Die For"). With those alternatives ruled out in the relentless search for boxoffice gold, however, director Jon Avnet ("The War") never seems to know what to make of the good-hearted but bubble-brained Tally. Miami TV news director Warren Justice (Redford) can't bring himself to admit that he's simply drawn to her charismatic surface; instead, he takes her in hand for a full "A Star Is Born" mentoring arid territory already strip-mined 20 years ago by this film's shameless screenwriters, Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, in the clunky Barbra Streisand/Kris Kristofferson rock 'n roll version.
   Jaded, weatherbeaten Justice, whose ill-defined sense of integrity has led to his banishment from the network news racket, throws away what's left of his life and career for the sake of a blow-dried bimbo. Redford's twinkly, camera-conscious performance amounts to walking contemptuously through this glitzy but empty movie, but such self-congratulatory narcissism comes perilously close to self-contempt. After all his character's labors, he sees Tally finally achieve mere competence, which the movie defines as the ability to stand erect on camera while mouthing liberal platitudes during a prison riot. This is something to die for? Starring Robert Redford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Joe Mantegna and Kate Nelligan. Directed by Jon Avnet. Written by Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne. Produced by Jon Avnet, David Nicksay and Jordan Kerner. A Buena Vista release. Romance/drama. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sensuality and depictions of violence. Running time: 124 min
Tags: Robert Redford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Joe Mantegna, Kate Nelligan, Jon Avnet, Joan Didion, John Gregory Dunne, David Nicksay, Jordan Kerner, A Buena Vista release, Romance/drama, weather, good-hearted, self-congratulatory, narcissism
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