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New Anna Nicole Smith film fails to live up to its ambition

Posted on November 27, 2012 | by Brittany Spanos

Live Blog“Addicted to Fame,” David Giancola’s documentary about the making of his last feature film, “Illegal Aliens,” fails in two major respects. It fails to inform its audience about the life of Anna Nicole Smith and also fails to draw any meanin

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gful conclusions, instead flip-flopping from one judgment to another.

Giancola set out to do both in this headline re-hashing of his “doomed-from-the-start” sci-fi comedy, which was released in 2007 after the Playboy Playmate’s tragic death. Featuring a series of incoherent and awful interview clips, including one from O.J. Simpson (labeled “O.J. Simpson: Former Celebrity”), the documentary comes off more as a grotesque E! True Hollywood Story reject rather than what it should have been: a thoughtful exploration of what went wrong for both the director and his star.

In “Fame,” Giancola intends to discover what made this particular film such a disaster. However, it ends up as the story of a director scorned by a difficult actress whose celebrity he had hoped would be an asset, but who proved to be a nightmare — even after her death.

Admittedly, Anna Nicole Smith had never been a saint, but the clips and soundbites Giancola includes border on sensational. Trying to convey how spectacularly Smith had failed in memorizing her lines, Giancola keeps dragging on a sequence of flubbed takes for so long that it ends up beating the viewer over the head. Worst of all, Giancola tiptoes around Smith’s drug use, perhaps trying to be diplomatic, but really just ignoring an issue that could have been effectively explored in the right hands.

This inflammatory attack on Smith constitutes only the first half of “Fame.” As the story moves on to how her life became consumed by court cases, the birth of her second child, paternity tests and the death of her 21-year-old son, Giancola suddenly becomes incensed by the media’s invasive coverage of her troubles, taking on a much more sensitive approach. Like every posthumous tabloid story about a tragic celebrity, Giancola’s tune rapidly becomes politically correct and protective, despite his having spent so much time emphasizing only her vapidity.

It is ironic that Giancola and his crew had condescendingly deridden Anna Nicole Smith for being such a superficial figure in both her public and private lifes since “Addicted to Fame” never travels beyond the superficial to explore the underlying, unexplored psychological facets of the story. Viewers are left with a piece of non-fiction as tactless and exploitative as any of Giancola’s fiction.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Nov. 27 print edition. Brittany Spanos is a staff writer. Email her at film@nyunews.com.

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