Film version of Jacqueline Susann's best-selling novel chronicling the rise and fall of three young women in show business.Film version of Jacqueline Susann's best-selling novel chronicling the rise and fall of three young women in show business.Film version of Jacqueline Susann's best-selling novel chronicling the rise and fall of three young women in show business.
For one thing, the character arc of Neely O'Hara (Patty Duke) is totally not credible. She's a singer who can't sing. Yet, she inexplicably goes from rags to riches on her singing ability alone. In the process, her personality morphs from sweet young thing to jaded and embittered has-been who barks and scowls at everything and everyone. Pills or no pills, her transformation does not ring true.
In addition, the film's poor plotting renders a story that is at times muddled. The plot darts and flits from one girl to the next; it spurts and sputters in a disconnected sort of way, without viable transitions. And some scenes are included evidently just to convey story exposition. A big part of the on screen time for the Jennifer character (Sharon Tate), for example, consists of three separate, and awkward, phone conversations with her mother. Other methods of explaining detail and advancing the plot would have worked better.
And the film's dialogue is campy, simply because it contains almost no subtext. It's so in-your-face, so lacking in subtlety, that some of it just reeks of junior high school theatrics.
Aside from the screen story, the overall acting is not very good. Patty Duke, in particular, is just downright awful. She shouts, she screams, she exaggerates her facial expressions in ways that are totally out of sync with the dialogue and the plot.
And the film's musical numbers are something else, especially when Susan Hayward attempts to lip sync a ghastly song called "I'll Plant My Own Tree", surrounded on stage by brightly colored fake leaves that whirl around her. The sequence is made even more ludicrous because the audience cheers wildly at the awful performance.
I guess I can't really fault the visuals, since bright colors were so trendy in the 1960s. Still, the visuals do make the film look dated. Those garish costumes and hairdos, that garish makeup, and that garish decor provide just one more reason to sneer at the film.
The only thing worthwhile here is the appearance of lovely Sharon Tate. And the film's sad theme song is professionally done. Otherwise, apart from its unintended humor, "Valley Of The Dolls" is suitable mainly as a lesson for aspiring filmmakers. In a book on film-making, this film could head the chapter: "Don't Let This Happen To You".
- Sep 14, 2006