Because five years after a tragic, sordid death is an excellent time to capitalize on said death, Lifetime just had to go for it. The unauthorized made-for-TV biopic The Brittany Murphy Story promised to be both tasteless and offensive, and boy, does it deliver — adding boring and meandering to its list of epithets. Shot in just 16 days and starring Brittany Murphy look-nothing-alike Amanda Fuller, TBMS is a toneless slog through a few real moments and a whole lot of made-up things about its subject’s life and career.
Murphy deserves better, and so do we — but this is what we got. Here are the scenes to hate-watch out for:
1. The Murderer Is…Hollywood!
Our story begins in flashes of headlines over a still photo of Amanda Fuller looking absolutely nothing like Brittany Murphy (“Brittany death conspiracy!” “Overdose!!!”), plus sad tweets from Lindsay Lohan and Ashton Kutcher. At one of those fake movie press conferences where all the journalists are information vampires, someone asks: “Simon! What killed her?” Simon Monjack, Brittany’s very weird-looking widower, turns and declares: “You did. You ALL killed her.” Oh, we’re in for it now.
2. When Wigs Attack
Time for a flashback. After relocating from Jersey to L.A., Brittany gets her big break in the teen-movie classic Clueless. We get a quick glimpse of the cast filming that makeover montage, except Tai, Cher and Dionne are just inside a giant warehouse with no sets in the background — so unless Amy Heckerling secretly pioneered green-screen technology, that doesn’t hold water. The crowning glory of this sequence is Fake Alicia Silverstone’s epically wretched wig, which looks like it was sewn together from the desiccated remains of three other wigs. Too bad there are no actual blond-haired women in Hollywood.
3. Meeting the Paparazzi
There are a bunch of red carpet scenes in TBMS, all shot on the same postage-stamp-size set, with the photographers clearly in another room entirely from Fuller. “Tell us, who are you?” one shadowy paparazzo with a cut-rate British accent shouts. (SPOILER: It’s Simon!) “I’m Brittany. Brittany Murphy,” Britt says, like she’s a concussed James Bond. “No, no. Who ARE you?” “I’m Brittany Murphy,” she repeats, with exactly the same nonexistent level of intensity, and the music soars. Self-confidence…achieved?
4. Friends Don’t Let Friends Diss Kale
Britt is successful! She has blond hair and owns a big house! But then her childhood friend from that beginning part or whatever (who has blond hair and owns a little house) pays a visit; and they just don’t get each other anymore, you guys. Jersey Friend requests bacon, Britt offers her a kale smoothie instead, and the Garden State resident rejects her fancy Malibu health food. Cue sad piano chords as Britt laments: “I’m just having such a hard time relating to her now. It makes me sad.”
5. The Ashton Kutcher Affair
Remember Just Married? The correct answer is no. Anyway, Britt gets cast in it opposite Fake Ashton Kutcher, whose wig seems to have been fashioned out of a pile of dried earthworms. They totally make out in the middle of a photo shoot, flirtatiously eat some fries, and then half-assedly break up. “What happened to us between when we first hooked up and now?” Fake Ashton murmurs. Britt’s answer is thoughtful and even includes a simile: “We were playing newlyweds in a movie. That is like doing a reality show and thinking the real world is gonna be the same.” Yes, exactly like that.
6. The Paparazzi Attack Britt’s Subconscious
Brittany winds up in the hospital because she fell down the stairs and the camera went loopy; she’s diagnosed with anemia, hypoglycemia and Ashtonbreakupitis. The tabloid types are on the offensive when Britt and Mama Sharon leave, but whoosh! Creepy Simon — who keeps randomly appearing — swoops in to save the day. “I tried to warn you, Britt. The paparazzi — they’re not your friends,” he says. “I honestly thought that those guys were my friends!” she wails later that night, slow on the draw, staring at a fake Perez Hilton story. Cue dream sequence, which consists of Britt’s face in extreme close-up against a white backdrop, while the camera tilts drunkenly from side to side and distant voices shout things at her.
Britt spends a lot of the movie being frustrated that better acting roles don’t come her way, but she’s mystifyingly over the moon about becoming the new spokesmodel for Jordache Jeans. “Sometimes dreams do come true!” she says to her mom without a trace of irony. She then blithely pulls a prescription pill bottle out of her purse with a “Guess I won’t be needing these anymore.” “ANTIDEPRESSANTS?!” Sharon shouts, like she just found out her daughter has been shooting heroin into the arms of newborns. If you’ve made it this far in the movie, take a drink every time Britt pops a pill and the music swells.
8. Cancer Drama
While in the full throes of her happy Jordache phase, Britt finds a pamphlet on the counter and realizes her mom’s cancer from some other time in the movie has relapsed. Sharon comes home from the drug store to find her daughter sitting on the steps, weeping with mascara running down her face. Except it isn’t running; it’s some bad makeup artist’s crude rendering of what runny mascara might look like, a makeup artist who has never seen mascara or tears before. “How bad?” Britt inquires of the cancer, between unreal sobs. “It’s bad,” Sharon replies, meta-textually reviewing the movie she’s in.
9. Bad News Simon
So it’s 2007 all of a sudden, and Britt and Creepy Simon start dating and then get engaged two seconds later. Britt and Sharon are at a restaurant talking wedding plans, when a random woman at the next table — whose identity we never learn — overhears and shouts, “How well do you know Mister Simon Conjack?” (Never mind that neither of the Murphy ladies said his full name in the course of their conversation; she just knows, dude.) She then proceeds to itemize his sins, including “the broken hearts he’s left strewn on both sides of the Atlantic,” before a handsy waiter drags her out of the room. Britt marries him anyway, naturally.
10. The Slow Demise
Nope, not poison and not toxic mold. According to TBMS, Britt died like the coroner’s report said: pneumonia, anemia and mixing prescription drugs. And boy, does Fuller play it up. She moans! She flails! She refuses to go to the hospital because paparazzi! Meanwhile, Simon and Sharon pour ungodly amounts of pills and strange yellow liquids down her throat. But, you know, in a caring way…? After the inevitable bathroom collapse, the three end in a teary pieta, Simon and Sharon holding an unconscious Britt under the slo-mo shower spray as the camera just sort of lolls from side to side. Much like your head probably is.