Review: ‘True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet’

"True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet" was based on a novel but essentially feels like a cautionary "Hannah Montana" episode, with a wildly uneven tone that awkwardly tips from whimsy into melodrama at a moment's notice.

Consider this telepic a throwback to the glory days of Lifetime, when the title (think “Another Woman’s Husband”) was invariably far better than the actual movie. “True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet” was based on a novel but essentially feels like a cautionary “Hannah Montana” episode, with a wildly uneven tone that awkwardly tips from whimsy into melodrama at a moment’s notice. Valerie Bertinelli plays the sober aunt of a troubled teen star in a bit of clever casting that marks a cross-generational bid to attract teens and their moms; still, the pic’s afterschool special approach amounts to “Girls Gone Mild.”

“Starlet” features pop singer-actress Joanna “Jojo” Levesque as Morgan Carter, a Hollywood “it” girl who, following a rehab stint, is sentenced to a life of normalcy with her aunt Trudy (Bertinelli) in Fort Wayne, Ind. All it takes to camouflage this fictional starlet is a new ‘do and name, Claudia — and voila! Morgan blends right in with the other kids, who apparently don’t own TVs or read magazines.

OK, let’s ignore the implausibility of the premise for a moment. Strictly as a fish-out-of-water tale, the movie subjects Claudia to the indignities of becoming a high school outsider in Nowheresville, which she details in constant voiceover narration — groaning about being “stranded in a flyover state” and forced to become “an extra in my own life.” She even meets a cute boy (Ian Nelson), but in a desperate attempt to protect her cover story, she’s compelled to borrow the plot of a Lifetime movie in which she starred.

Elisa Bell’s screenplay adaptation is full of all kinds of similar showbiz references in pursuit of street cred, but Tim Matheson’s direction drunkenly careens all over. At various times it’s a screwy teen comedy, “Notting Hill,” a high-school drama and “The Lost Weekend,” when a despondent Claudia/Morgan falls off the wagon and raids the liquor cabinet.

Lessons will be learned, of course, but by then it’s hard to care much about Morgan’s fate or, for that matter, the movie. Then again, to employ a bit of wisdom that onetime kid star Bertinelli might share with a teenage actress, in a project this obvious and mediocre, it’s best to take things one day at a time.

True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet

Lifetime, Sat. Aug. 9, 9 p.m.

Production

Filmed in Toronto by Barbara Lieberman Prods. in association with Starz Media. Executive producers, Lieberman, Jon Maas; supervising producer, Phil Kleinbart; producer, Mark Winemaker; director, Tim Matheson; writer, Elisa Bell, based on the novel by Lola Douglas;

Crew

Camera, David Herrington; production designer, Marian Wihak; editor, Charles Bornstein; music, David Schwartz; casting, Stacey Rosen. RUNNING TIME: 120 MIN.

Cast

Morgan/ Claudia - Joanna "Jojo" Levesque Trudy - Valerie Bertinelli Eli - Ian Nelson Sam - Justin Louis Bianca - Lynda Boyd Marissa - Shenae Grimes

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