The title is both unexpectedly flippant and possibly a little desperate, and so is this movie about suburban Houston housewife Wanda Holloway (Holly Hunter), whose lurid tale made headlines and magazine covers (including PEOPLE's) in 1991. Enraged that her teenage daughter Shanna (Frankie Ingrassia) was constantly losing out in cheerleading competition to a neighbor's daughter, Amber Heath (Megan Berwick), Holloway allegedly tried to hire a hit man to murder Amber's baton-drilling mother, Verna (Elizabeth Ruscio). Although she was convicted and sentenced to 15 years, she was freed on a mistrial. While it sounds like James M. Cain with pom-poms, the Wanda Holloway saga has drawbacks—no one gets killed after all, and it's hard to depict Wanda wanting to murder someone (the movie suggests she might have been as happy if a leg or two were broken). This may be why the film dawdles trying to be both a parody of TV movies based on tabloid events and a satire of the Holloway family's attempts to sell off their movie rights. This becomes downright coy when producer James Manos Jr. and writer Jane Anderson turn up playing themselves, and Anderson says she envisions Hunter starring in her script.
Anderson could have been more astute in her casting concept. Hunter is bossy, mean, sadly deluded—perfectly believable, in short—but she never clicks. If only she had been able to make us root for Wanda.
Director Michael Ritchie has been down this sideshow-America road before with the 1975 theatrical feature Smile
, a behind-the-scenes comedy about a beauty pageant in suburban California. Like that movie, True Adventures
is amiable and lively. It also has two good performances, by Beau Bridges and Swoozie Kurtz as Wanda's lowlife ex-brother-in-law and his insane wife. The movie, though, just doesn't seem to have much point.
HBO (Saturday, April 10, 8 p.m. ET)