Review: 'Angelyne'

Post by: Rick Ellis 19 May, 2022

If you've spent any amount of time in Hollywood, you've met someone who is obsessed with the idea of being famous and the method doesn't matter as much as the result. They'll marry into fame, troll themselves into the public eye or do whatever else it takes to claw themselves into some level of infamy. 

And these people have generally struck me as being more sad than interesting. Many of them are people with talents that would make them a success in normal society. They're smart, beautiful/handsome and able to navigate social situations with a deftness that most of us can only dream of doing. But yet, their lives revolve that amorphous obsession with "fame" and much like miners who spend their live chasing gold fever, these people devote every ounce of their souls into a quest that will almost certainly disappoint them.

Peacock is premiering its miniseries Angelyne today and it's one of those stories that is likely a lot more interesting inside the industry than anywhere else. It's based on a 2017 Hollywood Reporter story which unmasked the true identity of Angelyne, a buxom blonde who had first come to the public's attention with a series of mysterious billboards that tried to build a Marilyn Monroe-like mystique around her persona.

She succeeded in doing so, if you equate making a living hawking over-priced merchandise out of a bright pink sports car with being an international superstar who reportedly slept with an American president. 

Angelyne was never more than a tangential Hollywood footnote, but her story was ironically a lot more interesting when you learned her backstory, She is in fact Renee Goldberg, a girl raised in Southern California by parents who were Holocaust survivors. And as her story unfolds, it makes her transition from the strikingly beautiful but non-famous Renee to the big-bosomed flamboyant Angeleyne a bit easier to navigate.

Emmy Rossum plays Angelyne and if there is a reason to watch the series, it's Rossum's complete embracement of Angelyne's persona. She reportedly spent three hours in makeup a day strapping on the massive breasts and other adornments necessary to make the role work. And she channels all of her acting skills and charm into creating a version of Angelyne who is a lot more nuanced than the original.

The producers also help the cause by centering each episode on someone who had an impact on Angelyne's life: her first love Danny (Michael Angarano), Cory Hunt (Philip Ettinger), the frontman of a punk band she took over in the late '70s; Max Allen (Lukas Gage), a tragic filmmaker who spent years working on a documentary about her that will probably never be released; printing magnate Harold Wallach (Martin Freeman), who financed Angelyne's billboards in the '80s and his flummoxed daughter Wendy (Molly Ephraim); Rick Krause (Hamish Linklater), the obsessed president of Angelyne's fan club and reporter Gary Baum, who wrote a 2015 profile of her in The Hollywood Reporter that led to the tip that eventually revealed her true identity.

The acting in Angelyne is first-rate and as the story unfolds, you're left with an unsettling admiration for his woman who used her formidable charms to wreck havoc on the lives of everyone who was unfortunate enough to be sucked into her orbit. Rossum portrays her with such charm and appeal that you see why admirers found her so fascinating.

It's tempting to cast Angelyne as a story about female empowerment or the efforts of a woman to tackle fame on her own terms. But seeing pictures of the now 75-ish real-life Angelyne walking around Hollywood in ill-fitting clothes and too much makeup doesn't feel like an uplifting vision of breaking the mold. It's more the story of someone who devoted the better part of their lives to being a caricature of what they believe fame must look like. 

And whether or not you find Angelyne worth watching will depend in great part on how much you're interested in the watching the slow-motion unraveling of someone's life.

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Last modified on Friday, 20 May 2022 13:38

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