Picks and Pans Review: Painted Lady
Helen Mirren is a grade-A actress. It's not that she lacks the skill to make the tough transition from police detective Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect to faded blues singer Maggie Sheridan in this Mobil Masterpiece Theatre miniseries. The main reason we have trouble accepting Mirren as a "Janis Joplin figure" (to quote host Russell Baker) is that Painted Lady does a poor job of developing its main character. After sketching Maggie's past (seduced by drugs, abandoned by fame, rescued by a wealthy patron), the script thrusts the heroine into a murky mystery that requires her—most improbably—to pose as an art buyer who also happens to be a Polish countess. The plot has complexity without fascination, though art-history buffs may appreciate some sly visual and verbal references. "You don't know anything about Van Dyck," Maggie is warned early in her masquerade. "Yes, I do," she says. "I thought he was very good in Mary Poppins." Van Dyke was a bit miscast, too. But like Mirren, he managed.
Bottom Line: Worth a look, but no masterpiece