'Beautiful & Twisted': TV Review

Jack Zeman
A quick and dirty look at the Hotel Fontainebleau murders

Love, money, death, strippers.

Beautiful & Twisted marks Rob Lowe's third Lifetime movie, but the first in which he plays the victim. In some ways, his portrayal of Ben Novack Jr., the real-life heir of Miami's Hotel Fontainebleau fortune, feels like an extension of Lowe's recent spate of DirecTV ads. Consider him, as Ben Novack, "Miami-Vice-in-Batman-underpants Rob Lowe."

Beautiful & Twisted chronicles the story of Ben Novack Jr.'s tempestuous relationship with his wife, Narcy (Paz Vega), a former strip club dancer. In 2012, Narcy was convicted — along with her brother and two hired hitmen — and sentenced to life in prison for the deaths of her husband and her mother-in-law, Bernice (Candice Bergen).

Despite this foundation of brutal murder (and the murders are graphically wrought), Beautiful & Twisted has a light-hearted, wacky vibe to it. Lowe narrates as Ben, who looks back from the grave (or, at that point, the morgue) on his relationship with Narcy, and the clear signs of her derangement that he should have heeded long before his death.

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Ben is no saint, either, but his portrayal in this movie is one of an overgrown kid. He drives one of his three Batmobiles throughout Miami, eats icy pops during important meetings, trades comics, and giddily blows his money on prostitutes and cocaine. After one particular bender, Nancy attacks them in their home while he tries to shield himself, wearing only Batman underwear. 

The movie trades in clunky dialogue played straight (like Lowe intoning in the voiceover, "I love fast cars and crazy women, and that was her superpower"), and visually spends its time from a perspective Ben describes as being his upbringing: "ass, boobs, drugs; it was all eye-high." As for the lush Miami locale, it's sadly underused until the end, when Narcy begins to fully enjoy the money that she could finally claim all to herself.

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Beautiful & Twisted does, though, trade in decent trepidation and suspense. For those unfamiliar with the nuances of the murder, every shadowy scene holds the potential for death (although most of it ends up being foreplay). As Ben begins to suspect Narcy of several devious, even murderous, acts, his paranoia reaches a fever pitch. And while this, too, plays out comically (like wearing a bulletproof vest to bed, and driving around Miami with a bullhorn), it's tempered by the unfortunate fact that his fears are not unwarranted. 

Everything in the Novacks' life is portrayed as being over the top, and Beautiful & Twisted's setup certainly matches that tone. What doesn't quite match up is the acting. Lowe's narration fits as apologetically irreverent, but Vega's performance is somewhere between Showgirls and a Dateline special. Bergen mostly plays her role straight and staid, until one truly bizarre interlude that seems like it's from a different movie. Grounding things, unexpectedly, are Seychelle Gabriel and Soni Bringas, as young adult and child versions of Narcy's daughter May. The girls are standouts, and add some much-needed empathy.

For those who enjoy the reliable, non-serious camp of Lifetime's old-school original movie productions, Beautiful & Twisted fits into that canon just fine. But while it's a story that hopes to illustrate the seductive dangers of a life of overindulgence lived to the hilt, ultimately it's just a fast and dirty take on foolish people doing bad things.

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