Tuesday, 19 February 2013

LACE II: DADDY’S GIRL


 
Here’s how I like to envision it: after the success of LACE on ABC, the powers that be rushed out to make a sequel. Problem was, one of their leading ladies, Bess Armstrong,  was unavailable. Worse, the continuing story suggested by author Shirley Conran failed to make everyone happy. In the book, Lili (played on TV by the very glamorous Phoebe Cates) is kidnapped. Most of the novel centers around getting her back. This didn’t bode well for the producers since they desperately wanted the spotlight on Cates again. So what they ended up doing is make the kidnapping victim Judy Hale, Lili’s mom. That way, most of the miniseries would once again highlight the L’Hirondelle school for girls in flashbacks; while, in the present, focusing on Lili’s ultimate quest in finding her real dad to pay for the high ransom. Sort of like the hidden years of Lucinda Lace (Judy’s fictional heroine) crossed with a Nancy Drew-ish investigation. Juicy, right? Well, not exactly.



The main problem is Bess Armstrong’s replacement, the late Deborah Raffin. Her take on the Judy character is all wrong. Judy is serious, opinionated, a bit rude at times. In this one everything she does and says spells a different person. If it’s not her laid back attitude, it’s the way she makes silly jokes, as if Judy had a sense of humor in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, I like Raffin as the next guy, but she’s totally miscast here. And what about the whole silly plot of dragging her kidnapped ass to the jungle? We get it, she’s been tricked into thinking she’s getting her biggest scoop yet. But the whole I hate you I love you shtick with her suave captor has been done to death, and frankly, we’re ready to move on. So who’s to blame, here? The screenwriter—Elliott Baker—mostly, who did come up with the silly plot. But I suspect he had no choice but to follow orders. How else can you explain all this drivel?



Another thing that bugs me is that Lili’s accent is MIA. I know, her foreign dialect is hardly credible in the original LACE but at least it makes sense that her character should have one (remember, she was raised by the Dassins in Château-d’Oex, then became a prisoner of war in Hungary before escaping to Paris). In this sequel, however, only the American accent survives. Which is fine in itself, but shouldn’t she at least add a little European flavor to it, like oui, non or Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques...? Anything to prove that she is who she claims she is. Because as it stands, I have my doubts.



Which brings my biggest pet peeve: Lili’s prissy manners. Now that she’s found her mother and all is happy with the world (at least for a while), it looks like Lili’s sex symbol image has definitely taken a step back. Gone is the baby face-pout, the insolence of her ways, the exhibitionist extraordinaire… Now it’s mature Lili to the rescue, the voice of reason almost; leaving little of her old self, which, to me, spells inconsistency. Remember, part two follows exactly where part I left off, meaning the time-lapse between the two is to a minimum. But strangely, Lili—just like her mom—almost becomes a different character. And don’t tell me it’s because she’s more grounded now. A person does not change that quickly. Thanks heaven Maxine and Pagan stay relatively the same (besides having two different-looking husbands), but share less screen time. They mostly act as foils to Miss Lili. So, I’ll say it again: shame on you, Elliott Baker!



I  know. You don’t have to tell me. I obsess over this way too much. But I had such high hopes for LACE II. I wanted it to be as wonderful as the original. Heck, I even wanted it to become a weekly series. And maybe it would have been had it reached the success of its predecessor. But it only did okay in the ratings. I should have known it was not meant to be the moment Lili’s face appeared on a Times Square billboard without the notorious theme score to back it up. Oh, the Deniece Williams song did grow on me over the years but, alas, just like this sequel, it never reached the level of amazement. Still, I do check out LACE II every once in a while. For, despite its many faults, I still enjoy it to a certain degree (especially the scene involving Lili and the astronaut on a balcony which to me captures the real essence of LACE). And watching the continuing misadventures of Lili is better than nothing at all. But as someone very wise once said: what the f—. My thoughts exactly regarding LACE II.






Until next post—Martin



 


Sunday, 3 February 2013

SHIRLEY CONRAN AND HER “SAVAGES”





Those who have already read my blog entry about Penny Vincenzi’s OLD SINS will know that I tend to stray away from hefty novels. Not because they aren’t my cup of tea, but life is too short to invest my heart and soul into long-winded works. Well, that’s what I thought for the longest time until I got a hold of OLD SINS. Anyway, to make a long story short, let’s just say that I still feel the same way but not as much, which is the reason for this new entry. I finally managed to read Shirley Conran’s SAVAGES in its entirety. Yes, again, like many others before it, I tossed up the book twice before finally sticking with it. At 691 pages (the International mass market paperback edition) you can imagine the degree of devotion I needed to keep with the flow. But I did persevere and I’m proud to say that it is one heck of a read.



The story revolves around five privileged women who must rely on themselves when their respective husbands are assassinated during a business trip in the tropics that bumps into a revolution. Different as night and day, these ladies will nonetheless form a solid bond when they end up surviving for weeks in the jungle. As you can imagine, SAVAGES is far from being all glamorous with its many tales of skinning, fishing, even slaughtering as mean to stay alive, but the investment is as worthwhile. Conran delivers a strong narrative that replaces lace and diamonds with strength and willpower,  making this offering her strongest book yet.


What’s also great about SAVAGES is the way the author shies away from the stereotypical route, choosing a more creative one that packs more punch. I was expecting (and dreading) these survivalists to be caught in a big tribal scene since they are stuck in a jungle, but Conran envisions it quite differently. For when it does seem to go there these ladies are already far and away, trying their best to get rescued from the right people. Because the bad guys are not necessarily the ones with painted faces. Let’s just leave it at that.
 

Like I mentioned earlier, the edition I ended up with is the international one from Pocket Books that usually invades airports across the Western or Northern skies. I found it in an used bookstore at a Montreal hospital after having taken care of a busted knee (running accident). This mass market copy differs slightly from the  UK or Canada edition. Starting with the cover which is a reprint of the dust jacket from the hardback. Personally I prefer it to the Penguin Books edition featuring a hot babe on a beach. It represents more what the book is. Moreover, the international paperback features a never-before-seen prologue focusing on two ill-fated secondary characters mentioned later in the story. I wonder if these extra pages are included in the just re-released edition from Pan Books (below). All in all, a grand novel to throw yourself into, whatever its length.





Until next post—Martin