My two most hated phrases in entertainment journalism? (1) “A surprisingly good performance by Bruce Willis.” (When will you cease being surprised he can act?) (2) “Raquel Welch is still beautiful at age x,” where x equals any age since she turned 40. I mean, she’s gorgeous and all, and not 22 anymore, but when will you stop noticing that?
Well, the answer may well be “never.” I hate that cliché, but damn if it isn’t true. Welch plays the mama of Gianni and Donatella Versace in Lifetime’s House of Versace, another in the network’s racy biopics. This one’s a twofer: Gianni (Enrico Colantoni), the gay designer murdered by stalker Andrew Cunanan in 1997; and even more so Donatella (Gina Gershon), his sister who took over the luxury line after his death.
Ever since Maya Rudolph’s languorous caricature of the style icon on Saturday Night Live, it’s been impossible to look at the Botoxed fashionista and not see her as a self-parody. That changes with Gershon’s performance; she embraces its camp, then supersedes it. Gershon sinks into the role, thick-as-marinara accent and all. And Colantoni — whose relationship with his sexy boyfriend Antonio is directly and unprovocatively addressed — bears an eerie resemblance to the real Gianni while convincingly evoking his creativity.
The script doesn’t do justice to Gershon’s man-eating turn or Welch’s inherent glamour. As with many mainstream TV movies, it relies on predictable conflicts and trite melodrama too often. But the pearly elegance and glitzy behind-the-scenes fashion insights, plus its iconic female stars, make this catnip for gays.
Three stars. House of Versace premieres Sunday at 7 p.m. on Lifetime.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 4, 2013.