The Peacock series Angelyne, about the mysterious blonde bombshell who graced LA billboards in the ’80s, is quirkier than a standard biopic.
The limited series, which is airing now, follows Angelyne (Emmy Rossum, “Shameless”), née Ronia Tamar Goldberg, who has been an iconic oddity for decades cruising around in her pink Corvette (think Hollywood version of the infamous Times Square Naked). Cowboy) and appearing on billboards where it wasn’t clear what she was promoting — aside from her own desire for everyone to know her face.
Portrayed by an almost unrecognizable Rossum (buried beneath a platinum blonde fake boob and Minnie Mouse voice), Angelyne’s aesthetic is part Dolly Parton, part Barbie. The show compares her to a prototype of characters “famous for being famous,” like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. (The real Angelyne, now 71, is executive producer on this series.)
If Rossum (who also serves as an executive producer) has been looking for a role that steers as far away from her brunette, stressed-out, impoverished Chicago girl as Fiona Gallagher, then “Angelyne” is for her. She clearly has a blast embracing campy glamour, imbuing her performance with a mixture of coy charm, ethereal melancholy, bubbly ambition and a borderline delusional determination to manifest her own reality.
Angelyne’s real name, identity and past as a Polish descendant of Holocaust survivors were a mystery until a 2017 article in the Hollywood Reporter. The series begins with an offscreen man reading this article to Angelyne as she lies on pink silk sheets, before returning to an onscreen map that reads in pink letters, “1981 or 1982, depending on who you ask…”
“Angelyne” plays with the truth: Characters are based on real figures, but with changed names. For example, this 2017 article is by Gary Baum, but on the show the journalist character (played by Alex Karpovsky, “Girls”) is named Jeff Glasner. (And to make things confusing, when Hugh Hefner, played by Toby Huss, makes a brief appearance, his name doesn’t change.)
The narrative bounces back and forth between depicting Angelyne’s origins over the decades and 2019, when older versions of the characters speak interview-style to the camera and give conflicting accounts of what happened.
2019’s Angelyne says she asked her then-boyfriend Cory (Philip Ettinger) to join in the late ’70s she Tape; Meanwhile, the 2019 version of Cory tells the camera that he asked her to join his Band (Angelyne also proclaims he’s dead while cutting the shot of Cory rolling his eyes and saying, “I’m not dead. Man, of course she’d say that”).
This style makes the series crazier than your average paint-by-numbers biopic. It never feels like we dwell on one era of her life for too long, as the episodes focus on her relationships with different people. Among others there is Harold Wallach (Martin Freeman), who ran a printing company and funded its billboards; Rick Krause (Hamish Linklater), her assistant and president of her fan club; Danny (Michael Arango), her first love; and aspiring filmmaker Max Allen (Lukas Gage), for whom she was a documentary subject.
The show’s fast and easygoing approach to facts and the nature of memory can be frustrating (and a little distracting in the case of some goofy wigs like Linklater’s), but also feels appropriate for such a self-mythologizing character.
If you want a hard-hitting bio, this series isn’t for you. But if you want a show that conveys something Information about this pseudo-celebrity – whether it’s true or not – this is a lively series that’s more interested in the stories people tell themselves than in cold, hard facts. And in its way, it’s the most honest way to look at a person’s life.