Lifetime again proves its worth with O' Keeffe
Lifetime certainly has evolved, growing from the women-in-distress films it once was known for into a rich and varied force of entertainment.
Case in point: This week’s standouts. Most notable is Lifetime’s Saturday movie, “Georgia O’Keeffe” starring Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons. It premieres at 8 p.m.
I’ve always been moved, uplifted and mesmerized by O’Keeffe’s paintings of flowers, seashells, animal bones and landscapes. Blissfully, Lifetime’s biopic -- about the fascinating woman behind the art -- left me with similarly strong feelings.
Then, there’s the especially intriguing “Project Runway” – at 9 p.m. Thursday. It features red carpet vision Eva Longoria Parker as guest judge. The challenge she presides over? An unusual one literally ripped from the headlines: The designers must make clothes out of newspapers.
Art and love
Back to Lifetime’s reason to stay home this Saturday night: “Georgia O’Keeffe.” Thanks to dramatic photography of her work and views of the “Land of Enchantment” – a k a New Mexico -- that inspired her, it’s utterly gorgeous to look at. In a teleconference call, Allen, who plays O’Keeffe, called it “a real coup” that they were able to shoot at Ghost Ranch, where she lived. “To climb the ladder and sit on the roof that she actually sat on, that I think added a tremendous feeling to the film.”
However, at the movie’s heart is romantic love -- in much the same way it was in Lifetime’s earlier biopic “Coco Chanel,” which is up for a couple of Emmys Sunday.
In “Georgia O’Keeffe,” we’re treated to the dizzying, oft-times maddening, relationship between O’Keeffe and photographer/benefactor Alfred Stieglitz.
“The guy was a real pain in the ass,” says Irons, who plays him, adding that his challenge was to find something in him that would make it plausible that O’Keeffe would stay with him.
Irons succeeded. Their connection engages the viewer from the start. A then-unknown O’Keefe confronts New York gallery owner Stieglitz over his displaying of her Texas watercolors without her permission. He tells her that she’s “a revelation,” that he sees in her “the same raw, intuitive, irrational, untutored talent from whence all true creativity erupts.”
“You sure can talk,” she responds.
Such amusing dialogue, in fact, is one of the movie’s charms. When Stieglitz tells O’Keeffe not to return to her teaching job at West Texas State Normal College, he sniffs: “There’s nothing normal in Texas.”
It doesn’t take long for the two to fall in love, igniting a talent-inspired passion that’s beautiful to behold. That is, until it becomes ugly. Stieglitz’s infidelity wounds O’Keeffe deeply, and she flees to a friend’s home in New Mexico.
There, in the place’s feverish sensuality and earthiness, she finds her unique artistic voice in images of nature that some have described as Rorschach-like connotations of sexuality.
However, the push me-pull you aspect of the couple continues to dominate the film, made all the more compelling by intensely memorable performances by Allen and Irons. An unforgettable moment follows a jarringly insensitive announcement by Stieglitz. While painting, O’Keeffe’s battered emotions soon build into a tearful breakdown.
I, too, was left in tears. Yes, there’s no question that another Lifetime movie is destined for Emmy nods.
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