Bad acting, poor plot kills this TV movie --not its looks


February 04, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Televison Critic

For starters, "If Looks Could Kill: the Marla Hanson Story" has the title wrong.

The TV movie about the New York model whose face was slashed is really the story of a beautiful young woman who was the victim of an off-balanced admirer. Her looks didn't kill anybody.

In real life, Steve Roth -- Hanson's landlord and admirer -- was the person who "killed" Hanson's modeling career. He had two thugs do it with a razor. Looks were not really involved.

But there's more wrong with this film, which airs at 9 tonight on NBC (Channel 2), than an incorrect cliche used for the title.

For one thing, there's not nearly enough plot here for a two-hour movie. The story line is Marla comes to New York, gets rejected for a lot of modeling jobs and then becomes Roth's object of obsession.

When Hanson rents an apartment from him, he frequently walks in unannounced. This happens more times than Cheryl Pollak, who plays Hanson, says, "Beautiful girls don't have it so great."

For about an hour, this yin and yang is what fills the time between commercials: He walks in on her; she complains about him walking in on her and then launches into her favorite speech about how hard it is to be beautiful.

Pollak, who's in almost every scene, could kindly be called flat as an actress. Her acting style is based on gestures and comes from nothing deeper than makeup and wardrobe. She has a voice so high and lacking in inflection or subtlety that a lifetime of voice coaching may not get it straightened out.

"If Looks Could Kill: the Marla Hanson Story" is truly a story about sex and violence: A spurned admirer reaches for the Gillettes. Because of that, it should be commercially successful.

But on the screen for two hours, even sex and violence need some nuance. This is the kind of made-for-TV movie that makes shampoo commercials seem deep.

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