Judge Brett Cullum wants a $2,000 refund for spending an hour and a half with Heidi Fleiss.
Meadow tries to get down and dirty as Hollywood's most celebrated madam.
Jamie-Lynn DiScala is best known as Meadow, Tony Soprano's little Italian princess on The Sopranos. She's been a stage actress since the age of seven, and even did a stint as Belle in Disney's Broadway adaptation of their movie musical Beauty and the Beast. She battled an eating disorder in the '90s, and landed a gig as a national spokesperson for the disease. She's a mix of Cuban, Jewish-American, and Greek heritage. And after Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss, she'll be glad people will remember her for more than her portrayal of real-life callgirl-turned-world's most powerful madam, Heidi Fleiss.
Heidi Fleiss has a great story, and one day somebody will get it to the screen in a good adaptation. But does it ultimately matter if anybody ever gets it right? We all know the tale, or at least have seen Fleiss interviewed about it. She was a native of Los Angeles, and dropped out of high school in the tenth grade. She became a high-priced call girl at 22, and when her madam was arrested she stole all the business right out from under her with some help from her lover and business partner. By the time she was in her mid-twenties, Fleiss's stable of girls were servicing A-list Hollywood celebrities for about $1,500 an hour. She grew the business of her former boss from $50,000 a month to a whopping $300,000 a month (that's her cut of roughly forty percent—not the total amount earned by the girls). After a series of double crosses by her jealous former madam and angry business partner, the vice squad busted Fleiss in 1993. She was convicted of pandering and sentenced to seven years in the slammer, but through a technicality with some faulty jury practices she only had to serve eleven months on tax evasion charges. She never spilled the beans on who her clients were; all of Hollywood, along with many high-powered CEOs and prominent politicians, heaved a collective sigh of relief.
One big problem with doing a film on Fleiss is that she's so recognizable it's hard for us to ever accept DiScala as her. Physically, she's too small and doesn't have the hardened features and bee-stung lips that are trademark Heidi. And then there is the squeamish, almost tentative performance given by the actress. Rumor has it Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss was not a happy set for Jamie-Lynn. She admitted in several interviews that she never identified with Fleiss; producers claim she held up shooting by breaking down in tears every time she had to perform a sex scene, even while fully clothed. This DVD release of Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss features some extra sexy footage—where anyone with a good eye will be able to spot a body double anytime there is ever even a hint of nudity. In an even more bizarre twist, the body doubles are often caught on camera with privacy patches strategically in place. Didn't anyone want to get naked? Apparently not. Freeze frame the flick at the right spot, and you can catch what looks like full frontal Cabbage Patch genitalia on both a woman and a man.
The movie is typical made for late-night public cable fare—it was produced as a movie for the USA Network (the infamous former home of Silk Stalkings). The supporting cast includes Brenda Fricker (Veronica Guerin) and Robert Davi (Showgirls) as the original madam and Fleiss's lover/business partner respectively. Even more shocking is the appearance of Corbin Bernsen (LA Law), looking god-awful as a high roller Hollywood producer named—mysteriously—"Steve." He's an absolute fright to behold, and I had no clue it was him until the credits rolled. It's been a long, hard road from playing Arnie Becker. And no, Charlie Sheen does not have a cameo. Most of the cast simply has a good time playing all their parts for pure camp. They all showed up to play at this pimp and prostitute ball of a movie. Originally the film was going to be titled Going Down: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss, but USA Network demanded a less sultry title for the cable premiere. So now it's known as Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss. Guess they wanted "class."
Fox offers a stripped-down, bare-bones edition of the movie. The transfer looks good, and you can view the clean print in anamorphic widescreen or traditional fullscreen depending on your mood. My copy was incorrectly marked as fullscreen on side A and widescreen on the flip side, but I quickly found out that was reversed. Should make for some confusing fun if all the copies are printed this way. The sound mix is a hearty 5.1 mix that delivers all the moaning and cheesy '80s tunes perfectly. You can't bitch too much about anything except the glaring lack of extras. Ultimately, it would have been a blast to have Heidi do a commentary, but alas there is nothing. Not even any real-life archived news footage of our heroine. Sigh.
Face it, Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss is bad. It wants to be a daring tell-all biopic, but it reveals little and is saddled with a lead who isn't ready to do the dirty work. But it's not all bad news. The pace is super-quick, and the short run time keeps the energy flying and the squeals coming as they move from one camp-filled sequence to the next. It goes down easy like a bad pizza, and even though it's forgettable there is a gleeful spirit to the tale that is hard to hate. Heidi Fleiss is an interesting character even when she's not played particularly well. If DiScala gets one thing right, it's the biting, zingy one-liners Heidi often flung at her clients, her partners, and ultimately at the press as they hounded her all through the trial. There's enough here to secretly place this in your NetFlix wishlist and never admit that you watched it. Just grab some cheap wine, and turn it all into an elaborate drinking game with your howling friends. But even as campy as it is, Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss is still more trick than treat. Heidi and her girls deserve better. In the same amount of time it takes you to watch this movie, one of them would have earned roughly $2,000. Tell me they weren't more entertaining than this mess.
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