The scenario give us Elizabeth James Tivey (Brooke Adams, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Gas Food Lodging), an actress who gave up her career to raise daughter Sara (perky, energetic Eva Amurri, The Banger Sisters). Now she's somewhat older than when she was a boxoffice draw, with a head of grey hair instead of the alluring black that made her a knockout. 16-year-old Sara doesn't want to pursue the professional career mom is pushing for her. Instead, she's into becoming a beautician and sees mom as the perfect practice model. To make mom glamorous again (get it? the title?), she brings on brushes, wigs, and face lifts.
Sister Kate sees Sara's project as a means to make a movie without having to construct a dramatic narrative and brings in a crew and their equipment to record the cosmetology process and underlying family issues as they occur. When the transformation is complete, Sara arranges a meeting at a restaurant for mom to show off her new "look" for dad, Elizabeth's ex-husband Duncan (Gary Sinise) and his new wife Molly (Light Eternity -- don't ask). At this contrived reunion where nothing seems to go right, Elizabeth catches the eye of restaurateur Max Hires (Tony Shalhoub), a sweet-natured man who is understandably attracted to the artfully made-up lady (his real-life wife).
Farcical comedy notwithstanding, the style of the telling is more scattered than disciplined, giving the impression that there was a whole lot of story vamping going on to justify its claim on a profound, let alone single theme. Its publicity claims it to be an examination of society's obsession with youthful good looks and a statement against the notion that women see their value in terms of their appearance. Yeah, right. Antithetically, its primary source of interest seems to be its glimpse at what Brooke Adams looks like these days.
Made-Up was adapted by Lynne Adams from her own stage play, which seems to be dedicated to putting sis Brooke -- who hasn't had a movie assignment for 9 years -- back on the screen. Lynne calls it a "mockumentary," a term that can be read as an improvisational rescue of a less than well crafted piece of work. We know that lightweight digital cameras (and scale or no pay) is turning moviemaking into a cottage industry for low-budget output, but the omnipresent reminder that, "hey, we're only making a movie here," is not enough of a novelty to score as creativity. The few meaningful moments occasionally generated are all but engulfed by fussy, meaningless distraction and wandering trivialities.
The key to this curious bit of family collaboration getting theatrical distribution after some (limited) success on the festival circuit in 2002 is in the marquee value of the cast led by the rising star of debuting director, very busy actor, and husband of the female lead, Tony Shalhoub (Big Night, Men In Black II). While his direction is less than remarkable, his role of suitor for Elizabeth's affections is the single most appealing and coherent piece of the film, showcasing his instinctive grasp of comedy character.
But if they'll take my recommendation, they'll aim the piece to the direct-to-DVD market and return this team to the domestic sideboard in lieu of the movie storyboard.
Run time: 96 mins
In Theaters: Friday 1st March 2002
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Director: Tony Shalhoub
Screenwriter: Lynne Adams