Beautiful Darling

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Beautiful Darling

James Lawrence Slattery loved the movies. During his childhood, he was bewitched by television reruns of films featuring Old Hollywood starlets such as Joan Bennett and Kim Novak. The naturally effeminate boy would impersonate these silver screen idols---much to the chagrin of family members and neighbors. There were plenty of appalled stares and "just a phase" whispers. But little did anyone realize that this was all a mere dress rehearsal for James's greatest role (one he played onscreen and in life), as the gorgeous transsexual Candy Darling.

James Rasin's documentary portrait of the Warhol Factory staple---Candy memorably appeared in underground movies like Flesh (1968) and Women in Revolt (1971)---is both adoring and severe. One of the producers is the performer's good friend Jeremiah Newton, whose 2007 journey to inter Candy's ashes forms the backbone of the film. You might expect some of the subject's edges to be blunted as a result, but this fortunately isn't the case. There is, of course, a tear-inducing montage of Candy set to Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" (in which she was immortalized). Yet there are also grim appraisals of the actor's pathological need for stardom and the social circle that mercilessly fostered it (Fran Lebowitz, unsurprisingly, gets in a few trenchant digs at Warhol and his vogue-chasing posse). The film isn't blinded by Candy's beauty and celebrity; it digs critically, if still empathetically, beneath.

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By: Keith Uhlich

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