“What we have here is a dirty soap opera.”
– Roger Ebert, in his 1967 review of the film
The Jacqueline Susann novel Valley of the Dolls was an instant success, and, not surprisingly, it got made into a movie pretty much right away.
I recently brought the book with me on a beach vacation and was surprised by how much I liked it. When the vacation was over and my flip-flops were put away, I sat down to watch the movie version.
I didn’t love it. Let me tell you why.
I’d always heard that both the book and the movie were trashy in the best way possible. It turns out the book was way trashier than the movie, with more sex and even more drugs. And again, I mean that in the best way possible. The movie was campy but almost too campy. Some of the performances were just horrible and so completely over-the-top that I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at certain scenes.
While the major themes and events were the same in both the book and the film (different time period though), character development was seriously lacking in the movie. Anne, Neely, and Jennifer are all pretty unlikable in both versions, but at least the book spent a lot of time on each of them. I understood them more when I read the book, and I understood their friendship. To me, that was the most interesting aspect of the book, and it was completely missing from the film version.
I lost interest in the movie pretty quickly and spent some time on Pinterest while it was on. There were many times that I wished I could pin an image from my TV because the look of the movie is amazing. Lots of big hair and heavily lined cat-eyes, not to mention the chic 60s fashion and a little bit of pink thrown in every now and then.
But in the end, I’d much rather reread Valley of the Dolls than sit through another viewing of the movie. Although apparently I missed Richard Dreyfuss’ film debut, so maybe I’ll watch it again just to catch that. And to sing along with “Come Live With Me”, a standout song from the film.