Even with three films on TV, Amy Fisher's story isn't any clearer

January 01, 1993|By New York Daily News

The second and third Amy Fisher movies duke it out Sunday on CBS and ABC (9 p.m.), meaning that if anyone still wants more after this, they'll have to buy their own TV network.

Monday on NBC, we got Amy's version: that she was having an affair with Joey Buttafuoco and shot his wife, Mary Jo, with his tacit consent. OK, in retrospect it wasn't the best decision, but she was driven by burning love and was psychologically warped by her own dysfunctional family. Nearly a third of Monday's viewing audience tuned in, making it one of the highest rated television movies of the year.

In contrast to Poor Amy of the Disturbed Childhood, Sunday night's CBS flick (Channel 11), "Casualties of Love: The 'Long Island Lolita' Story," gives us Joey's side: that this cute but sick little cookie dreamed the whole thing up. On CBS, we meet St. Joseph of the Falsely Accused, a reformed coke addict who loves his wife and high-fives his son for finding a Willie Mays rookie card.

These differing pictures should, in theory, put ABC's "The Amy Fisher Story" (Channel 13) in a position to cast the tie-breaking vote -- since ABC, unlike NBC or CBS, didn't buy its point of view from either side.

So what does "The Amy Fisher Story" tell us when we pop the question?

Gee, it tells us . . . that's a good question.

Or, to quote a jaded newspaper reporter in the movie, "There's three sides to every story. His side, her side and the truth."

And six hours of TV movies later, we aren't one millimeter closer to understanding where that truth can be found.

We also don't know much of anything new about the principals. Amy's still a bad driver, Joey still wears tight jeans. If only because of what happened to Mary Jo, we suspect the stuff of modest tragedy may be lurking somewhere, but none of these movies has a clue where to look.

Hint: It's not tragedy to have Amy call Joey a sanctimonious worm and Joey reply that Amy is an ignorant slut. In fact, it reduces the case to a "Saturday Night Live" sketch, without the laughs.

The CBS movie at least does one thing right: It's the only one of the three that develops Mary Jo. Unfortunately, it doesn't stop until she's overdeveloped. By the final scenes, she has an amazing resemblance to Geraldine Ferraro -- smart, upright, outspoken, almost no visible after-effects or pain.

In contrast, the ABC film spends much of its time following New York Post reporter Amy Pagnozzi. Unfortunately, it follows her to dead end, since she doesn't know what happened, either.

The movie-makers do seem to think the affair was real, but Drew Barrymore's Amy lost any vestiges of redeeming innocence so long ago that for a punch line, the movie gets no bolder than, "Tsk, tsk. Too bad." Now a movie doesn't need to find truth to be interesting. But if it doesn't it needs something else, like great dialogue or romance or something. Sunday's movies have none of that.

The rush to air time may explain lines like ABC's Joey telling Amy, "What you got needs no improvement." It doesn't explain the curiously antiseptic, almost detached approach all three movies take to sex, as if focusing on psychology instead will somehow place them on the high road. It doesn't.

Sunday's flicks have a few problems common to quickie productions. Barrymore's accent fades in and out. The resolution in "Casualties of Love" comes abruptly, as if the editors suddenly realized they only had three minutes left. The filming is low-risk and flat.

But the main problem is that all three Amy Fisher movies, including both of Sunday night's, seem to have been made for the sole reason that people were talking about the subject, not because the films had anything to say.

The result, as we say in the tabloid biz, is a mile wide and an inch deep.

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