The Lifetime movie “Anna Nicole,” a biopic about the late Anna Nicole Smith, caused a huge buzz on the Internet when it premiered on June 29, 2013. Agnes Bruckner, who played Smith in the movie, did a live Twitter chat when the movie premiered in the Eastern and Central time zones, and “#annanicole” quickly became a trending topic worldwide on Twitter. Meanwhile, most of the Internet comments from people who saw the movie have expressed sympathy for Smith, but some people who watched the movie felt that it could have done a better job of covering certain aspects of her troubled life and the controversies after her death.
On Feb. 8, 2007, Anna Nicole Smith (whose real name was Vickie Lynn Hogan) died of a prescription-drug overdose in a hotel room in Hollywood, Fla. She was 39.
Her son, Daniel, died at the age of 20 in the Bahamas, on Sept. 10, 2006. Daniel was Anna Nicole’s son with her ex-husband Billy Smith, whom she was married to from 1985 to 1993. The former spouses had been separated for several years before they officially divorced. According to the autopsy report, Daniel died of a combination of methadone, Zoloft and Lexapro. Although there were rampant rumors that Daniel was murdered, the death was ruled an accidental overdose.
Anna Nicole’s daughter, Dannielynn, was born on Sept. 7, 2006, just three days before Daniel died. Dannielynn’s father, photographer Larry Birkhead, got custody of Dannielynn in 2007, after a bitter custody battle with Howard K. Stern, who was Anna Nicole’s attorney and longtime companion. Stern was one of several men who claimed that he was Dannielynn’s father, but a paternity test proved that Birkhead was Dannielynn’s biological father.
Lifetime’s “Anna Nicole” movie covered many other aspects of her turbulent life, including her rise from being a high-school dropout/desperate stripper to becoming a famous model/actress, as well as her downfall as an overweight, ridiculed celebrity addicted to prescription drugs and starring in a much-criticized reality show. However, some events in her life were not covered, including her commitment ceremony to Stern after Daniel’s death and the controversy over Anna Nicole playing guessing games with the media about who fathered Dannielynne.
Also covered in the movie are her failed relationships, bisexuality and controversial marriage to billionaire J. Howard Marshall II, whom she was married to from 1994 to 1995, when he died at the age of 90. His death resulted in a prolonged legal battle between Anna Nicole and Marshall’s children over who had the rights to inherit the bulk of his fortune. Anna Nicole died before the case could be resolved, but in May 2013, a U.S. district court awarded sanctions of an unspecified amount to Dannielynne. The aftermath of Anna Nicole’s death was not covered in the movie.
Critics’ reviews of the “Anna Nicole” biopic were pretty much what you would expect for a Lifetime movie: Most of the critics said that the movie was cheesy and melodramatic and unlikely to get nominated for any awards, but that the film had some noteworthy moments for its acting.
Here is a sampling of critics’ reviews of the “Anna Nicole” movie:
“Anna flashing her boobs to a crowd of people seems tame compared to everything else she did in the movie. From pole-dancing on a football field in front of her son — yes, you read that correctly — to getting wasted while pregnant, Anna sure lived ‘adventurously.’ In the beginning of the movie, we heard a voice-over from Anna that pretty much sums up the whole film: ‘She’ll be buried as an international celebrity and balls-to-the-wall party girl.’ If we didn’t know that before watching this movie, we definitely know that now ..
“The whole courtship and marriage between Anna and J. Howard Marshall, played by Martin Landau, just seemed comical. Since this is 2013, the movie definitely enhanced the YOLO factor on Howard. The guy just wanted to have some fun in his last years and be Anna’s sugar daddy (cringe).
“‘Anna Nicole’ is a cheap, trashy, melodramatic Lifetime original movie that’s at times so absurd you can’t help but laugh—which perfectly evinces the campy essence of Anna Nicole Smith. Telling the late model’s story through tone is genius and director Mary Harron is on to some next-level biopic sh*t …
“But while the tone is spot on, ‘Anna Nicole’ is rife with factual and chronological inaccuracies … Like how we were supposed to believe that she came up with the stage name Anna Nicole Smith as a little girl. It was actually Guess? co-founder Paul Marciano who renamed her. Or how her earlier ODs and rehab stints were distilled down to one incident. Or how Bruckner simply isn’t the radiant beauty that Smith was.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Lifetime’s ‘Anna Nicole’ is a pretty sad affair. It’s sad because some surprisingly skilled actors agreed to be in the cast, and it’s sad because Anna Nicole Smith’s life was one big trailer tragedy. But it’s also sad because six years after her death, she’s no longer fodder for even the sleaziest tabloid TV show. Maybe Lifetime thinks the passage of six years will smooth over the more ridiculous elements of ‘Anna Nicole,’ airing Saturday night, such as the fact that Agnes Bruckner could pass for the real Anna Nicole only if you squint your eyes – really, really tight. The big problem with the film is that it doesn’t even pretend to go deeper than what we may remember from when Anna Nicole was the Lindsay Lohan of her day, America’s sweet train wreck.
“As for the rest of the cast, it pains me to have to list the major names who inexplicably agreed to participate, but here we go. Oscar nominee Virginia Madsen plays Anna’s mother, Adam Goldberg plays Anna’s later-in-life lawyer and companion, Howard K. Stern, and Cary Elwes plays the son of Anna’s oilman husband, J. Howard Marshall. OK, worst of all: You may want to avert your eyes and cover your ears when the great Martin Landau, as J. Howard, notes that he’s no longer able to ‘spring wood’ when he’s wheeled into a strip club.”
“A TV movie about the strange, short and ultimately tragic life of Anna Nicole Smith doesn’t exactly inspire great expectations. But Lifetime’s ‘Anna Nicole’ disappoints both as a campy guilty pleasure and a movie with a surprisingly solid pedigree. Lifetime didn’t get just anyone to bring Smith’s story to the screen. They landed Mary Harron, director of ‘American Psycho’ and quirky, interesting biopics ‘I Shot Andy Warhol’ and ‘The Notorious Bettie Page.”‘
“Unfortunately, the odd coupling of filmmaker and network doesn’t result in anything particularly memorable. Harron gets decent performances from a strong cast — led by Agnes Bruckner’s game work in the difficult, nebulous central role — provides a low-key, dreamy visual style, and ensures that the drama never gets too exploitative or laughable, but she’s ultimately defeated by both TV movie conventions and the subject herself.”
The movie also got mixed reactions from viewers.
Here is a sampling of Internet comments about the “Anna Nicole” movie:
“Rest in peace to anna nicole smith yes my dear you’re so explosive #methewholetime”
“The ending to that Anna Nicole Smith movie was heartbreaking, that woman went through so much behind the scenes. it’s the price of fame.”
“Anna Nicole died the day her son did. Sad to say but she knew her sons death was a direct result of her own personal demons.”
“Sad How Anna Nicole Son died when she just gave birth to another child.”
“So apparently that Anna Nicole Smith movie isn’t half bad. How do you play that role and not make it cartoonish?”
From Lifetime’s Facebook page:
“Loved the movie. It had both happy and sad parts, but it definitely needed another hour added on, they mashed like 10 events in a ten minute span.”
“This movie was a major disappointment!!! it should have shown a lot more and could have been a great movie but it was not ! where was everything we saw in the media? from the battle for the estate money to all the trials after her death ?? what about all the drama surrounding who Danny Lynns father was? what about all the times Howard publicly said he was her dad? what about Howard and Anna Nicole going to the Bahamas and getting married right after her son’s death ? the ending sucked ,we all know she was found in a hotel dead in bed from an overdose .the end of this movie has her putting Danny lynn in her crib ??? not only was it not true to her life but it was a big let down from lifetime !”
“Great movie but it should have been 1hour longer to tell more details. I read about her she was very interesting.”
“I think the actress did an amazing job on portraying Anna Nicole Smith. . I loved the movie .. good job lifetime.”
“The actress playing Anna Nicole is doing a good job! I loved Anna rip doll.”
“I dont know about this. I feel like the Anna Nicole Smith story has been told too many times. We pretty know every detail about her. What makes this movie any different? Not hating, just stating my opinion.”
“Just watched it it was a sad movie to say the least her own mother would not help her i think that is what led to it but i enjoyed it RIP Anna Daniel!”
“It was ok. Everything in the end of her life was rushed. They spent so much time on her being a guess model and her early life. Then she gets big loses weight has a baby and her son dies in such a short time. There was no detail during these times when that’s the time most of us know her. It would have been nothing nice to see how she was feeling behind the scenes.”
July 1, 2013 update: According to a Lifetime press release, the “Anna Nicole” premiere “averaged 3.3 million total viewers, a 57 percent jump vs. the network’s 2013 year-to-date original movie average and its most watched original movie since November . The film also performed well across all key demographics, becoming this year’s number one original cable movie premiere among Adults 25-54 (1.6 million), Adults 18-49 (1.4 million), Women 25-54 (1.2 million) and Women 18-49 (1.1 million) – representing a Lifetime best in the four demos since ‘Steel Magnolias’ last October. ‘Anna Nicole’ secured a 2.6 Household rating, according to Nielsen Research.”