Here's a true confession: Judge Erich Asperschlager wasn't crazy about this movie.
From notorious to anonymous.
You go into a video store and see a movie called True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet. It stars a girl named "Jojo" and isn't rated. What kind of movie do you think it is? Salacious unauthorized biopic? Softcore skin flick?
Would you believe Lifetime movie?
Facts of the Case
Life in the fast lane has finally caught up to party-hearty starlet Morgan Carter (Joanna "Jojo" Levesque, Aquamarine). When the 17-year-old It girl passes out drunk in front of a nightclub she is forced into rehab. But her flighty mother (Linda Boyd, Falcon Beach) and manager (Justin Louis The Andromeda Strain) aren't convinced she'll change her ways, so they send her to live in anonymity with a friend of the family, her "aunt" Trudy (Valerie Bertinelli, Touched by an Angel), in Fort Wayne, Indiana. As a brunette named Claudia Miller, Morgan struggles with life in a sleepy town where everyone shops at Discount Darling and eats carb-laden fast food at the Burger Shed. The toughest part, though, is fitting in at public high school. She meets a smart, cute, motorcycle-riding boy named Eli (Ian Nelson, What Goes On) and is befriended by his outgoing sister (Melanie Leishman, House Party), but lying to people she cares about becomes as difficult as keeping her whereabouts secret from the paparazzi.
For a movie about a young starlet who's learning life lessons about the real world, True Confessions looks a lot more like one of the low-brow teen movies Morgan Carter supposedly stars in than anything approaching reality. Like the title starlet, this movie can't figure out what it wants to be. On the one hand, it's a fish-out-of-water comedy about a spoiled rich girl fending for herself for the first time, but it's also the Lifetime story of a broken teen alcoholic and her lonely divorcee aunt.
It's a shame this movie can't choose, because it could have been worth watching had it gone fully down either road. Made-for-TV might not be the right format, but I'd like to have seen a gritty look at how stunted childhoods and worldwide fame chew up young actors and actresses in this TMZ and Perez Hilton-ized world. There's nothing new in this movie's premise, either, but it might have worked as a tongue-in-cheek take on Hollywood culture. Instead, we get a predictable dramedy with a happy ending. Depending on your tastes, that might be okay. It does what it does pretty well.
The story follows a predictable arc from Morgan's snobby name-dropping tantrums to realizing how much happier life is as a normal teenager. There's not much mystery about whether she'll develop a close relationship with her sweet-toothed aunt, or fall for the boy next door, or have to deal with a mean blonde girl at school. Spoiler warning: that all happens.
That True Confessions works at all is mostly thanks to its Lohan-nish lead actress, Joanna Levesque. Even though the idea that a major teen movie star could go unnoticed simply by changing her hair color is far-fetched, Jojo (yes, I just wrote that) looks enough like both a star and the girl next door for it to make sense. Levesque, who's apparently a pop star in real life, has an easygoing charm. She comes across as more mid-west than red carpet, which underscores the film's message without undermining its premise.
She plays opposite Valerie Bertinelli, a real-life child star who went through her share of rough patches. She gives the movie a definite made-for-TV feel, but does a good enough job that casting her gives the movie's cautionary tale a degree of authenticity.
The basic cable made-for-TV movie is a very specific brand of entertainment. It says "I don't want to pay to see a new movie because I'm already paying for cable." Lifetime, ABC Family, and the SciFi channel churn these things out and as "free" movies, viewers get what they pay for. It's not hard to recommend a movie like True Confessions when you can watch it on TV. It's harder when it requires buying the DVD.
Recommending a purchase is even more difficult when the only extra is a trailer for the movie. I doubt anyone's clamoring for a Bertinelli-Levesque commentary, but the only thing about this DVD that makes it any kind of value proposition are the audio-visual specs. The DVD presents this TV movie in full widescreen with 5.1 surround. The image quality isn't amazing, and the surround is used sparingly (mostly to give the loud pop soundtrack some weight), but it at least makes this feel like a real movie. You might almost be able to ignore the obvious commercial break fade-outs.
If you like this kind of movie and missed it on TV, or watched it on Lifetime and really loved it, True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet is probably worth at least a rental. If this isn't your cup of tea, well, I can't believe you read through this entire review on the off chance this movie is as sleazy as the title sounds.
One more trip to rehab ought to do it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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