Write & Wrong

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8-10 p.m., Sunday, June 3
Lifetime


Between all of her weight issues and romantic woes, we forget that Kirstie Alley is pretty good at this acting stuff. She has been nominated for eight Emmys and won two, the most recent in 1994 for her heartbreaking performance in the CBS telepic "David's Mother." While this Lifetime original flick is unlikely to garner her another Emmy nod given its mirthful and sassy tone, Alley nonetheless delivers again with a wry and engaging turn in a movie that's surprisingly good. (Please don't lose respect for me for saying it.)

"Write & Wrong" serves up not only some entertaining dialogue exchanges -- thanks to a spirited script from scribe George Beckerman and a nice bit of chemistry between Alley and her youthful, swaggering co-star Eric Christian Olsen -- it also has something reasonably intelligent to say about the showbiz predilection for freezing out most writers over age 40 because they're alleged fossils.

That's not to say that the telefilm is terribly believable. It isn't. But if you go with its flow, your diligence will be rewarded with a couple of hours that leave you feeling like you experienced something that was notably un-lousy. And a lot of that stems from Alley's ability to lift any story she graces with her presence -- with the notable exception of her Showtime debacle "Fat Actress" (but let's not even go there). She has an effortless comic timing few performers possess and isn't afraid to let it fly.

Here, Alley stars as Byrdie (yes Byrdie) Langdon, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter of middle age who suddenly is dismissed as being past her prime due to a combination of her closing in on 50 along with a recent lack of production. Rejected by studio execs young enough to be her kid, it's bye-bye Byrdie until she hatches a hare-brained scheme. She convinces her charismatic bullshit expert of a nephew Jason (Olsen) -- a car salesman who likes to call himself Krueger as an ode to a certain horror icon -- to pose as a writer using her scripts. She'll lose the glory, sure, but keep the money, or at least a percentage of it. And of course, the plan works almost too well, going to Jason's ever-swelling head.

The kid instantly becomes a hot Hollywood property despite having never really written anything, and even though his writing sample is simply a word-for-word ripoff of "Kramer vs. Kramer" with a different title. But it's clear that the ruse can't last. This being Lifetime, you just know the male is going to have to screw this up for the female somehow. (Spoiler alert: Don't read on if you want to spare a plot point being ruined for you.) It all starts to crumble when Jason falls for a gorgeous studio development exec (Stacy Grant), and, well, you can pretty much guess that Byrdie isn't going to take letting someone else steal her thunder for very long. Writers are as egocentric as they are self-loathing, after all.

Rarely do made-for-TV movies with a light touch manage to also actually be enjoyable, but "Write & Wrong," despite its cutesy title, pulls it off. Veteran telefilm exec producers Michael Jaffe and Howard Braunstein have done enough of these to know the formula, and it shows. And director Graeme Clifford successfully avoids getting in Alley's way, which means he's done his job well.

WRITE & WRONG
Lifetime
Jaffe/Braunstein Films in association with Lifetime Television
Credits:
Executive producers: Kirstie Alley, Michael Jaffe, Howard Braunstein, Richard C. Fischoff
Producer: Ted Bauman
Teleplay: George Beckerman
Director: Graeme Clifford
Director of photography: Tony Westman
Production designer: Michael S. Bolton
Costume designer: Lorraine Carson
Editor: Scot Kelly
Music: Jonathan Grossman
Sound mixer: Eric Lamontagne
Casting: Molly Lopata, Lynn Carrow, Susan Brouse
Cast:
Byrdie Langdon: Kirstie Alley
Jason "Krueger" Langdon: Eric Christian Olsen
Andrea Davis: Stacy Grant
Ray McDeere: Peter Cockett
Stacey Herskowitz: Britt Irvin
Richard Fleiss: Tobias Mehler
Steve Brooks: Rob Labelle
Marty Rosen: Jerry Wasserman
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