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Film / The Lonely Lady

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An infamous 1983 Pia Zadora vehicle, based on a novel by Harold Robbins. It has appeared on many lists of the "Worst Movies Ever" since its release and was a huge Golden Raspberry Award winner.

Zadora is Jerilee Randall, a high school graduate hoping to become a screenwriter. In Lonely Lady-land, this career path mainly involves literally whoring yourself to everyone in Hollywood. Sleazy sexcapades ensue and Jerilee responds with to each with a vacant stare. No, it is actually not intended as just straight porn. Probably.

Notable as Ray Liotta's film debut, although he probably hoped nobody remembered.

Has nothing to do with The Lonely Guy.

You can find out more here.

This film provides examples of:

  • The '80s: Though the film presumably takes place over the course of ten to fifteen years and seems to open in the late 1960s when Jerilee is a teenager, the hairstyles, fashions, furnishings, and automobiles throughout the film are all firmly 1983. There's a scene where we see Jerilee's bedroom is filled with all the latest bestsellers...from 1982, a good ten years after the scene's set.
  • Adaptation Induced Plothole: The entire film falls victim to this. The three screenwriters tried to compress a 500-page novel into an 88-minute feature, resulting in subplots that go nowhere, nonsensical actions by the main characters, and weird composites of the book's antagonists and protagonists that results in almost every supporting character having a degree of schizophrenia that might explain their often contradictory actions.
  • Advertised Extra: There's a character named Carla Maria Peroni (Carla Romanelli), who gets to appear in the poster of the film alongside Jerilee and the other main characters. She ends up only appearing in one scene. She's producer Gino Peroni's wife, a Lipstick Lesbian who hits on Jerilee (and it's implied that she sleeps with, while Gino watches) before never showing up again.
  • Alliterative Title: The Lonely Lady.
  • All Men Are Perverts:
    • The Lonely Lady was a Lifetime Movie of the Week before Lifetime. Also, some lesbians are thrown in just so men and women can treat Jerilee like a sex doll.
    • Averted with Guy Jackson, who is practically the only male character who treats Jerilee with something resembling respect and doesn't try to get into her pants.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Guy Jackson is heavily coded gay, to the point that if the film ever came right out and said he was gay, he'd qualify as Jerilee's Gay Best Friend. While the film itself skirts the issue, the book confirms his orientation.
  • Artistic License – Film Production: So, so much. Perhaps most egregiously the movie equates becoming a successful screenwriter with achieving A-List level Hollywood fame. While this isn't entirely unheard of (Diablo Cody's early career and short-lived fame in real life was surprisingly similar to Jerilee's in the movie), in reality screenwriters are treated notoriously badly compared not only to actors, directors and producers, but even "second-tier" roles such as cinematographers, editors and composers.
  • Big "WHY?!": When Walter asks Jerilee for help rewriting a scene that just isn't working, Jerilee adds a Big "WHY?!" that somehow transforms it from lackluster into absolute brilliance. It's so good, in fact, Walter becomes insanely jealous of Jerilee, ultimately resulting in their divorce.
  • Black Comedy: One character charmingly compares Jerilee's new script to her aborted child.
  • Book Ends: The film opens with teenage Jerilee accepting a school award for her writing, indicating that she has a long and promising career ahead of her. It ends with adult Jerilee walking out of the Not-Academy Awards ceremony after refusing to accept an award for her writing, (presumably) leaving her career in ruins behind her.
  • Brainless Beauty: Jerilee (who apparently has to learn the same lesson over and over and over again — she can't seem to learn not to trust anyone) and the bimbo girlfriend of Walter's agent.
  • Brand X: The movie is bookended by scenes of Jerilee at "The Awards Presentation Ceremony," which also features a generic awards statuette not at all like an Oscar.
  • Break the Cutie/Corrupt the Cutie: The whole premise of the movie. Every time she thinks she's found an agent, producer, or anyone else she can trust, it turns out to be another casting couch (or in this case writing couch) situation. Subverted in the end, however, as Jerilee gets over her Sanity Slippage, and at the "Awards Presentation Ceremony" she gives everyone present a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, swears off ever working in Hollywood again, and storms out.
  • Broken Bird: (Very poorly) played straight throughout the movie with Jerilee's "misadventures." She does ultimately recover from her breakdown, but is clearly left bitter and jaded about the profession of screenwriting, and Hollywood in general.
  • Camp Gay:
    • The rather flamboyant and effeminate hairdresser that befriends Jerilee during the filming of Walter's latest film.
    • Surprisingly averted with Jerilee's gay best friend, director Guy Jackson, who for the most part behaves quite masculinely.
  • The Casanova: George Ballantine and Vinnie. Vinnie is a sleazeball implied to have seduced many young up-and-comers by promising to put them in touch with his many Hollywood contacts, while George is simply a lady's man, something that Jerilee believes she wants after a sexually unfulfilling marriage to her first husband. Unfortunately, she gets attached to George and is devastated when he invariably moves on.
  • Casting Couch: The Movie (as the quote on Precision F-Strike shows) — Jerilee has to sleep with an untold number of men (and a couple of women) to get anywhere in Hollywood. Even the warm, fatherly types turn out to take for granted that Jerilee will submit to them (or their wives or girlfriends) as payment for their help.
  • Chatty Hairdresser: The hairdresser on the set of Walter's film knows all the dirt and spills it to Jerilee.
  • Crapsack World: Okay, Hollywood is well-known to be not the greatest work environment in the world, but even so this film's depiction of it as being full of sexually exploitative (if not outright abusive) jerkasses comes across as way over the top. Then again, considering Harvey Weinstein...
  • Dull Surprise: Plenty, particularly from Pia Zadora. In her case, it's perhaps most blatant when Walter not only brings up her rape — almost certainly the most traumatic experience of her life until that point — but actually accuses her of enjoying it, and she barely even reacts. Some people do respond this quietly to repeated violations of their body, mind and trust; Zadora may have been going for this, more like a Thousand-Yard Stare.
  • Erotic Eating: The television cut replaces one of Jerilee and Vinnie’s sex scenes with them provocatively eating a salad.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Just when you thought that every man in Hollywood was going to hit on Jerilee, the women start hitting on her too.
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: Two of them (the second one doubles as a Sex Montage; see entry below). Unfortunately, the pacing of the film is so uneven that while the first Falling-in-Love Montage gives the impression Jerilee fell in love and got married over the course of a very eventful afternoon, the second seems like she's been engaged in an uninterrupted, weeks-long sex marathon. Both ultimately leave the audience confused about just how long she's known either of these men.
  • Fanservice: This movie sells itself on the fact that Pia Zadora is nude in approximately every third scene...but it also seems to believe the audience is turned on by seeing the heroine get sexually used and abused. The movie clearly portrays her being emotionally scarred by this.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Jerilee has these before she loses her innocence, though since the same adult actress plays Jerilee from high school to her late twenties, the pigtails might just be an effort to inform the audience that this thirty-year-old woman is actually a teenager.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted. Jerilee does have an abortion, but nobody shames her for it and it's only brought up once afterwards.
  • Gratuitous Rape: With Ray Liotta in powder blue underpants and (of all things) a garden hose. What makes it even more bizarrely offensive is that aside from Walter angrily accusing her of enjoying it during an argument much later on, it has virtually no relevance to the rest of the story. Roger Ebert was justifiably not happy:
    Roger Ebert: I suppose it was necessary to have a scene in which the heroine is cruelly treated by men. But (a) couldn't they have thought of something other than rape by a garden hose? and (b) shouldn't such a traumatic event have had some effect on the character?
  • Heroic BSoD: Twice for Jerilee: the first after the garden hose incident, the second after she finds out Vinnie was just using her and has a nervous breakdown. The latter is preceded by one of the most unintentionally hilarious freak-outs ever caught on film.
  • Horrible Hollywood: Tinseltown is depicted as a place full of exploitative sleazebags. At the end, Jerilee swears off working in Hollywood ever again.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Jerilee sleeps with a guy without noticing he's an obvious sleazeball. Then he dramatically backstabs her and she falls into the arms of another obvious sleazeball. The cycle continues for the whole movie.
  • How We Got Here: Done in a rather confusing way; the film opens with footage of Jerilee arriving at the "Awards Presentation Ceremony", which is actually set near the end of the film chronologically. However, the film immediately cuts to an entirely different awards ceremony, which along with the vague name being used for their Oscars stand-in can leave first-time viewers confused as to which ceremony the arrival footage is from.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: The 6'3" Jared Martin (who played George Ballantine) practically had to get on his elbows to kiss the 5'0" Pia Zadora. Worse, there's a shower-sex scene between these two in which the much-larger Martin seems on the verge of squashing Zadora into the corner of the tiny stall.
  • The Ingenue: Jerilee takes this trope all the way to Who Would Be Stupid Enough? levels. It takes a full-on nervous breakdown to inject any level of reality into the way she sees the world.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The full on-screen title is "Harold Robbins' The Lonely Lady". Ah, the giants.
  • Informed Ability: Unsurprisingly, Jerilee's writing ability — after all, this movie was the best the real screenwriters could come up with. We're never told a single thing about any of Jerilee's work except for some vague praise for her short stories and the title of her final filmed screenplay ("The Holdouts.") We see her working hard on her material, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's good.
  • May–December Romance: The barely out of high school Jerilee and the 50-something Walter. Truth in Television as Ms. Zadora's husband at the time was 33 years her senior.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: As a film about a multi-award-winning neophyte screenwriter, this trope naturally applies. It's also evident in the messages later on in the film that writers should be free to go about their job without having to worry about Executive Meddling.invoked
  • Never My Fault: After being told that her daughter has suffered a full-on nervous breakdown, the first reaction of Jerilee's mother is to say that there's no history of mental illness on her side of the family, so it must be something she picked up from her father. It never occurs to her that it could be situational from Jerilee's many horrible experiences.
  • One-Steve Limit:
    • Most bizarre aversion ever. During "The Awards" at the end of the film, one of the other best screenplay nominees also has the oh-so-common name of Jerilee. For no apparent reason. The second Jerilee could have been named anything else and impacted the story not a iota. No one in-universe, not even the main character, remarks upon the coincidence, and it only serves to give the audience a moment of doubting their own sanity: have they been mistaken about the heroine's surname all this time? Did she get remarried yet again without our knowing? Is it a continuity error? Nope! (Contrast the similar scene in The Oscar, where the name duplication among the nominees is very plot-relevant.)
    • There are two characters named George, though they have nothing to do with each other and have no scenes together. Would it have been that hard to rename one of the Georges? Though, unlike the above example, there's at least the excuse that George is a fairly common name.
  • Only Sane Man: A variant. Jerilee is presented as the only person in Hollywood who is there for the noble purpose of having her Art accepted on its own merits without sacrificing her personal integrity for success...except that when presented with the opportunity to compromise herself in order to climb the ladder, she does so pretty much immediately and continues doing so for the rest of the film, as if she sees no other way. This is meant as a Searing Indictment of the way Hollywood treats women, but Jerilee barely puts up an objection, usually surrendering with only a Thousand-Yard Stare and a shrug.
  • Pet Homosexual: Guy Jackson, who exists only to 1) be gay, and 2) be the only person who is genuinely kind and supportive to Jerilee.
  • Precision F-Strike: "I don't suppose I'm the only one who's had to fuck her way to the top." Which Jerilee says right in the middle of being awarded (and refusing) her not-Oscar.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: The film portrays Walter's behavior after Jerilee alters one of his screenplays as an absurd overreaction (rather accurately), but when others suggest alterations to Jerilee's own screenplays later in the film, the film's message suddenly becomes that a writer's words are sacrosanct and should never, ever be altered by outsiders.
  • Sex Montage: Used to contrast Jerilee's steamy affair with George to her nearly sexless marriage with the impotent Walter. Unfortunately, the montage goes on for so long in a relatively short 88-minute movie, and the movie's overall pacing is so uneven, it gives the impression George and Jerilee are engaged in a single continuous lovemaking session that goes on for several weeks.
  • Shower of Angst: Jerilee takes a fully clothed shower at the start of her nervous breakdown, and doesn't change her clothes for the rest of the sequence.
  • Sleeping Their Way to the Top: Invoked by name (in a more graphic form) in Jerilee's devastating acceptance speech.
    Jerilee: I don't suppose I'm the only one who's had to fuck her way to the top.
  • Voyeur: Gino Peroni. Jerilee has been encouraged by Mr. Carlton to show Gino her script and assumes he's read it when he invites her to his home. Instead, Mrs. Peroni praises the script, says it's a beautiful story, Jeri is beautiful too, and lures her into sex while Gino watches. Then she's thrown out on the street, and when she yells "Hey! What about my script?" Gino laughs, "What script?"
  • Writers Suck: Played with; the film (and original novel) is about a writer who gets famous. By getting screwed in many ways, including the literal one. However, it otherwise takes an entirely sympathetic view towards writers.