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TRIBECA 2021

Review: Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story

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- In her engaging documentary, British director Laura Fairrie brings back leopard print. And a whole lotta hair

Review: Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story

Devoted to the bestselling writer who built an empire out of descriptions of “salty flesh” and “throbbing release”, it’s no surprise that Laura Fairrie’s Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story [+see also:
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– shown in the Spotlight Documentary section of the Tribeca Film Festival – is so damned entertaining. But although it opens with her sister, Joan Collins, claiming that following her death in 2015, Jackie Collins has already come back, as a fly, there is plenty of darkness here, too. If, as Collins famously claimed, “girls can do anything”, they sure have to work for it though, and hard.

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Fairrie is not exactly trying to redeem Collins’ novels, full of lines like “his face is an open invitation to bed” – and her movie is all the better for it. But she sure shows that, for many, it was the first encounter with unapologetic female protagonists who wanted it all, now, and usually even got it – also sexually. “She could promote these books and not be embarrassed,” points out her agent, and promote them she did, even if it meant constant belittling by journalists or writers who could only dream of such commercial success and devotion. So many of her TV appearances feel like that Michael Parkinson-Helen Mirren fiasco all over again, and yet she remains perfectly composed, clad in the leopard-print armour of her own choosing.

There is another aspect to this film, however, as at one point it morphs into a tale of two sisters: always compared and reportedly competing, yet interestingly enough eventually coming together for film adaptations of Jackie’s novels when Joan’s star was on the wane – including disco-and-swimming-pool-orgy classic The Stud. At this point, it would probably be impossible to refer to one while completely ignoring the other, but even before finding acclaim, Collins was never just “Joan’s sister”.

Known as the powerhouse with “big hair before big hair”, she was never just one thing, full stop. Before, there was also a girl, scribbling in her diaries about “necking” another boy. An underappreciated daughter, an aspiring starlet, a young woman trapped in a marriage to her first husband or encouraged to pursue a career by her second, and finally a published author, posing in her bikini next to a typewriter. Slowly learning to navigate the world of the bold and the beautiful, making everyone believe they were her best friends in the meantime. In short, it’s all a lot of fun, even despite the many ordeals that made her. And that’s even before Michael Caine and Roger Moore waltz in, tipsily.

Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story is a US-UK production staged by CNN Films, AGC Studios, BBC Arts and Passion Pictures, in association with Ventureland.

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