April 10, 2000 12:27am
Lifetime tries to score with ``Sex & Mrs. X''
by: Michael Speier
(HOLLYWOOD, CA) -- Hey ladies, if you have problems catching Mr. Dreamboat, then just watch Lifetime's ``Sex & Mrs. X.'' You'll discover that intelligence takes a back seat to the right dress, that eye contact is much more important than compatibility, and that material girls rule. It's really good advice ... if you work in a brothel, maybe.
The cable network that supposedly empowers women hiccups badly with this telepic about a confused journalist who transforms herself in order to score with the dudes. Granted, this isn't supposed to be some deep and meaningful project - it's based on an Allure magazine article - but how about a little class?
Linda Hamilton pulls it off nobly, even though the material she's given is about as tasteful as a shotgun wedding in Reno.
Joanna (Hamilton) and hubby Dale (Stewart Bick) appear to be a perfect couple, but their 10-year marriage has become stale. After he leaves her for a snooty colleague, Joanna goes on assignment in Paris that ends up changing her attitude about relationships.
Her subject is Madame Simone (Jacqueline Bisset), a swanky matchmaker who teaches perky coeds how to fall in love with powerful tycoons. She always has a pointed comment, spends other people's money on the finest jewels and thinks she knows exactly what men want.
At first, Joanna is only judgmental, challenging the greed goddess to describe herself as anything else but a pimp. But after they spend time together, Madame Simone convinces the pouty writer to do some ``intimate'' research. Joanna then assumes an alter-ego, becoming Mrs. X in order to learn the ropes anonymously. In the process, she sleeps with a smooth-talking photographer (Paolo Seganti).
Nobody's expecting director Arthur Allan Seidelman, scripter Elisa Bell or the producers to focus on a sadsack femme wallowing in her circumstances, but nabbing a guy only because you look great in black velvet is downright insulting.
Like a 1950s educational video about girl behavior and boy behavior, ``Sex'' implies that there is a certain way to carry one's self as a lady ... as long as it involves beauty and boobs. It's very unsettling.
This philosophy vastly undercuts two solid performances. As a confused and angry woman who takes control of her surroundings, Hamilton is sound, and Bisset is perfectly cast as the seductive ice queen who eventually softens up.
But that double play doesn't make up for an embarrassingly dated idea. Bell's teleplay is full of superficial dilemmas, and the message is as shallow as they come: Adversity is overcome with diamonds and caviar.
Tech credits are pro all around, especially Vlasta Svoboda's high-class production design. Nobody, however, is going to mistake Toronto's attractive locations for Parisian splendor. Thank goodness for stock footage.
Joanna Scott......................... Linda Hamilton
Madam Simone......................... Jacqueline Bisset
Francesco............................ Paolo Seganti
Harry Frost.......................... Peter MacNeill
Dale Scott........................... Stewart Bick
Filmed in Los Angeles and Toronto by Brayton/Carlucci Prods. in association with Hearst Ent. Executive producers, Anne Carlucci, Marian Brayton; co-producers, Larry Grimaldi, Amanda Vaill; director, Arthur Allan Seidelman; writer, Elisa Bell; camera, Don E. Fauntleroy; production designer, Vlasta Svoboda; editor, Sharyn L. Ross; music, Joseph Conlan; casting, Mary V. Buck, Susan Edelman, Jon Comeford.