Love and Betrayal: The Mia Farrow Story (1995)
I know not every film enthusiast is enthused by Woody Allen. It’s easy to see why: his work follows a similar formula and he gets his kicks from metropolitan lifestyles and May/December romances. And he can be mighty pretentious on numerous occasions. Did I mention the scandal regarding him and former flame Mia Farrow which resulted in child molestation accusations and Woody running off with Mia’s adopted daughter? Err…
If you frequent my blog, you can tell I like his movies and find his writing witty and clever. But I realize others think his work sucks and would rather spend their time watching Kangaroo Jack to which I say, “No problemo!” (Actually, that option might be a problem. Please seek help immediately.)
I’ll recap the scandal: Woody met Mia in the late 1970’s, fell in love, and collaborated on movies during the 1980’s. Careerwise, the couple reached a golden age in their work. Mia had 6 kids prior to their romance (3 biological sons, the other 3 adopted from Vietnam and Korea). Woody and Mia presumably had a child together named Satchel (who later became Ronan Farrow), and Woody signed papers to co-adopt Dylan and Moses, recent additions to the family. By the early ’90s, their relationship soured. Mia discovered Woody was secretly seeing one of her older daughters, Soon-Yi. Mia took him to court to gain full custody of Dylan, Moses, and Satchel and then accused Allen of molesting Dylan. In the end, he lost the custody battle and the two parted ways. Soon-Yi cut ties with the Farrow family too and married Woody a few years later. Whew.
Wouldn’t this make a crazy-ass TV movie? Well, you’re in luck! Someone wrote a book about it with a sharp bias for Mia which in turn became a 3 hour telefilm for FOX called “Love & Betrayal: The Mia Farrow Story.” The 1995 movie is a biopic of Mia’s life with special attention to her courtship with the famous director. And no matter which side you take in the Woody/Mia debate, there are no winners here. They both emerge looking shitty and stupid!
The actress portraying Mia is Patsy Kensit, who isn’t very popular in the U.S. other than marrying one of the Gallagher brothers from the band Oasis. Curly-haired wigs and short hairdos barely help her look the part. Patsy takes her voice down to a whisper and switches between playing demure to just plain stiff under annoying, soft-core porn lighting. Whoever wrote the over-the-top script sends the character on a swirl of emotional display and it’s clear poor Patsy doesn’t know how to handle it. She’s left to express Mia’s feelings in an abrupt and unnatural fashion that one can’t possibly sympathize but only laugh. In some scenes, she’s soft and sweet and kindhearted. Then she yells into phones (she’s angry!); she rubs her forehead (she’s stressed, ya’ll!); she sends her ex a Valentine’s Day card with a knife (how pleasant!); and she sits naked in a bathtub, staring at the wall with a blank, suspicious look (I guess she regrets giving up the knife!). The flip-flopping of emotions is exhausting to watch.
Woody is played by character actor Dennis Boutsikaris, who does a surprisingly good impression of everyone’s favorite neurotic New Yorker. He spend most of the movie wringing his hands and pausing to clear his throat every other sentence. Sometimes his eyes bug out and he scares the children. When he drops a pun, nobody cares because it’s just that ineffective and devoid of humor. The makeup is accurate and the clothing is on point; the stupid hat and raincoat screams “yes, I’m half Land’s End model reject, half elf, and women can’t resist me!” One other famous face featured in “Love and Betrayal” is not so precise…
This is who they hired to play Frank Sinatra. No really. By the way, Frank’s part of the sordid tale because he was Mia’s first husband. She married him when she was 19 and he was 50. He’s one of my favorite artists of all time so seeing this cheap imitation is a sheer travesty. I’m not going to even mention the actor’s name because I’m sure he wants to forget this film ever happened. He has the unfortunate task of uttering the movie’s worst line. After making love to Mia, a nude Sinatra rubs Mia’s bare leg in bed and asks “so how did you like it…my way?” Noooooooooooooooo!!!
Who can forget Soon-Yi Previn? As portrayed by Grace Una, she has a certain afterschool-special quality about her. Is it the actress’ fault or the script? I blame the latter – Soon-Yi is presented as whiny, pouty, teary-eyed, and prone to giggles, especially while in the presence of the 50-something Woody. Girl’s got a secret! The filmmakers decide to show the two in bed together for our viewing pleasure. Yay, just what we needed to see – giggles and ear nibbles!
The story and reenactments are on the same lacking level as countless TV movies. The script tells Mia’s biography in random parts out of chronological order, so the execution is scatterbrained. Example: scenes of conversation between Woody and Mia lead to unlinked flashbacks like young Mia in parochial school expressing a desire to become a nun, and her rehabilitating after a battle with polio. So basically, talking to Woody Allen brings back memories of Catholicism and polio. Editor, we need to have a talk!
For a movie that’s supposed to show Mia in a positive light, Love & Betrayal doesn’t do a very good job. The scenes of her during the early years are a poor attempt to justify her issues and character. She wanted to help people, particularly children, so she adopted. But in the film, there’s a weird disconnection between her and the kids. The youngsters are mere props, either acting as housemaids or being looked after by a nanny. After her divorce from Sinatra, Mia’s friendship with a woman ended after she ran off with the woman’s husband. The situation is treated like it was simply Mia starting a new chapter of self-discovery whereas the woman left behind experiences a mental breakdown. You know, no biggie!
All this talk about Mia is bad, but I’m not letting Woody slide by! This guy is self-absorbed and dumb to the core. He ignores Mia’s kids except for Dylan, whom he creepily clings to, and with Soon-Yi he sees nothing inappropriate about his actions. “The heart wants what it wants,” he says followed by awkward, unfunny quips. The mama bear within Mia emerges; she tries to keep her family together and takes them to a church to be baptized. If I wrote Love & Betrayal, I would add a scene where God speaks to Mia and proclaims “don’t drag me into this, you’re on your own!”
So what can we take from this film, shitfesters? That Mia may be little woman lost but also a harborer of deep issues buried underneath her gentle, humanitarian front? And as for Woody, let’s just say he isn’t qualified to babysit nor take home the Father of the Year award. One thing’s for certain: your family drama and mine pales in comparison to this tawdry mess. This movie is a dramatic example of the famous phrase “hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn.” This movie tries its best to take a stab at Woody Allen yet both parties end up in the loser corner. The crazy part is most of what you see in Love & Betrayal: The Mia Farrow Story actually happened. The question is, do you wish to watch 3 hours of dysfunctional dreck? I guess I was better off watching Kangaroo Jack!
Before I close, here’s a second picture of “Frank:”
And another, because torture: