There is only one reason to watch Lifetime’s unauthorized Brittany Murphy biopic Saturday at 8 p.m. — and that is to see the wigs:
That truly atrocious interpretation of Alicia Silverstone in Clueless is representative of the care, fineness and budgeting that went into the making of The Brittany Murphy Story, a movie so underwhelming it makes last year’s Anna Nicole Smith biopic seem like a masterpiece.
The movie’s trailer, which flashes words like “targeted,” “paranoid,” and “afraid for her life,” pegged the biopic as a murder mystery. Although the 32-year-old’s death was ruled as a case of pneumonia, with secondary factors of anemia and multiple over-the-counter drug intoxication, tabloids speculated that she was everything from an addict to anorexic to murdered. The first seconds of the movie also implies that she could have been a casualty of Hollywood exploitation. (“You killed her,” Murphy’s husband shouts to salacious paparazzi in the film’s opening sequence — an unintentionally ironic moment considering that Murphy’s actual father accuses the biopic, itself, of being “hideous, unauthorized and completely untrue.”)
But the movie isn’t a murder mystery. Outside the first five minutes of the film, it doesn’t explore the darker speculations surrounding Murphy’s life and death — which, while exploitive, would have at least made for an interesting watch.
And the movie isn’t a tribute either. Lead actress Amanda Fuller, who didn’t resemble Murphy or even a real person considering the wigs she was wearing, says she was given two days to prepare for the role, mostly comprised of mugging.
Instead the movie is just an unentertaining retelling of the late actress’ life, lived co-dependently with her mother — packing in as many details as possible in its allocating two hours without spending enough time on any one thing to make it interesting. Her highs (being cast in Clueless, dating Ashton Kutcher — who bizarrely comes out as the only stable character in the film, even though he uses french fries to emulate walrus teeth) and her lows (getting fired from films, bad relationships, and health problems) all read as humdrum because they are told in cliches. Like when Murphy throws a blanket over a mirror to show she is unsatisfied with her appearance.
Lifetime even brushes over the revelation that Murphy’s husband, Simon Monjack, nicknamed Con-jack, had an unsavory past. “I guess you can say I’ve been a bit of a sociopath,” Monjack admits chummily. “The past is the past,” Murphy says, unmoved, which leads to Monjack giving a straight-faced reading of the ultimate cliche: “When I’m with you, you make me want to be a better man.” The couple happily moves on.
The film was shot in 16 days, and it seems like less time was spent writing the script.
The Brittany Murphy Story isn’t guilty of smearing the actress’ memory. Its crime is more insidious: it makes the young, talented actress seem entirely forgettable.