Love and Betrayal: The Mia Farrow Story (1995)

Those who open the American Miniseries time machine way in the future will see a lot of our great heroes.  George Washington, the entire Adams clan, certain Abraham Lincoln over and over and, of course, The Kennedys.  The Kennedys require a totally separate time machine.  There are other expected denizens: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Thomas Jefferson. 

But, the one in there who doesn’t quite deserve her place is Mia Farrow.  Yet that did not stop anyone from wasting time on her.  Actually, “Love and Betrayal: The Mia Farrow Story” is not really her life story, just the story of her scandalous break-up from Woody Allen when he dumped her for her adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn.  It’s not exactly the stuff of legend.

If the idea for this miniseries (or approximately three-hour movie) is trite, the casting of Patsy Kensit damns it to unwatchable oblivion.  No real attempt is made to look gorgeous Ms. Kensit look like (come on, let’s be truthful) not gorgeous Miss Farrow, other than the curly mane she sported during the Woody years.  Kensit goes no deeper than the portrayals of various loopy characters Mia played in Woody’s movies.  There is very little sense of what Mia might really have been like during this ordeal, other than an understandably shrieking harpy. 

Mia and Woody (played by Dennis Boutsikaris in a very unflattering portrait of Woody, but then again, this isn’t his story) meet at a party by accident, though Mia does not seem to know any of the other Hollywood regulars in the room.  Woody quickly gets rid of her, because a gaggle of younger starlets are beckoning. However, he eventually goes on a date with Mia and they are so enchanted by each other, they stay so long the waiters set up for the next day and keep giving them snooty looks.

In no time, Woody and Mia are a couple, but Woody has his reservations because of Mia’s brood of children.  To be honest, one can understand, as Mia is a well-known collector of orphans and special needs children.  Woody, portrayed here as not only exceedingly selfish, but also completely helpless, is not father material.  But, for some reason, he agrees to be a part of it all (or a part of some of it as the movie lops off a few of Mia’s children to make it more manageable to remember their names).

Lurking in the shadows is Soon-Yi, played by Grace Una, though not very well.  Her Soon-Yi is initially spoiled and indulged, though shy and afraid due to her violent and scary upbringing.

Oh, before we go on with the future, let’s visit the past.  Spliced into the action are scenes from Mia’s past (including the short hairdo and Sinatra’s famous line about it).  These serve to, supposedly, give us some insight into how Mia became Mia, but since Mia in this movie is barely a character, they simply serve to take up time.  Richard Muenz is Frank Sinatra and Robert LuPone is Andre Previn, though it’s Christine Andreas in a two-second role as Ava Gardner who steals the whole movie. 

Woody and Soon-Yi start their affair innocently enough, if you look at it from Soon-Yi’s point of view, though Woody sure as hell seems like a dirty old man even taking a Polaroid.  It becomes sexual and Soon-Yi blossoms into not only a major slut, but also an insatiable one.  We will never know if that is the truth (how does anyone go that gaga over Woody Allen?), but since this is Mia’s story, it serves to further martyr the mother.  Mia discovers naked pictures and then everyone goes a-sluggin’ it out in court when further accusations arise that Woody was perhaps inappropriate with his own child by Mia. 

The facts of the case are a matter of public record.  Mia won in court, but disappeared from the public eye for a while, returning in a series of movie roles even more lunatic than those before this episode (let’s not forget her as Jackie in “Death on the Nile,” spewing poetry sitting on a pyramid just to piss off her former lover, though that role might serve as a good indication of what the real Mia may have been like).  Woody continued to make a movie every year, replacing Mia in the planned “Manhattan Murder Mystery” with his old flame Diane Keaton.  Woody and Soon-Yi, as of 2011, are still together.

What never needed to be a matter of public record is “Love and Betrayal: The Mia Farrow Story” because not only is it just plain bad, but it’s an awfully thin story.  It does have hints of Greek tragedy, but Soon-Yi was not Woody’s actual daughter, and no matter how creepy their love affair was/is/will be, he’s no Oedipus and she’s not his mother.  And though Patsy Kensit may flail around at times (saving the worst outbursts for mom Maureen O’Sullivan, never seen without a drink in hand here), Mia is no Medea.  She is just Mia Farrow, mildly talented actress who happened to land herself a few damn good roles.

Truly, the only reason I bothered to sit through this movie was to give myself some sort of baseline at the bottom.  It’s not cheesy like “Lace” or “Master of the Game” and it’s certainly not epic, but merely something aired.  By 1995, the genre had long gone into decline and this was an attempt to revive it, I suppose, but a cheap one.  Cheap and tawdry might have been fun, but cheap and boring serves no purpose.

Categories: Historical Miniseries

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