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TV Review

PBS 'Lady' Paints a Convoluted Picture

April 25, 1998|HOWARD ROSENBERG

The new "Masterpiece Theatre" two-parter, "Painted Lady," has elegant settings and Helen Mirren playing nicely off-type as a near-forgotten pop star from the '60s. Neither of which are enough to overcome its essential blurriness.

Allan Cubitt's story opens well, with a pulsating art heist and murder on a summer night on Charles Stafford's Irish estate, where his friend, once-famous Maggie Sheridan (Mirren), is staying in a guest house while drying out from drugs, 10 years after a suicide attempt.

Yet soon thereafter, enigma and suspense are supplanted by a knot of confusion that director Julian Jarrold is unable to untangle.

Believing that a stolen painting holds the key to what happened, Maggie pulls herself together, glamorizes herself and invades the tony, deep-pockets world of international art, pretending to be a dealer in hopes of getting to the bottom of the crime and its possible link to the Stafford family.

Luckily, her sister (Lesley Manville) and brother-in-law (Michael Maloney) are a part of this world and thus are available to advise her on the intricacies of the art trade and on a mysterious, high-stakes art dealer (Franco Nero) who ogles Maggie as if she were suitable for framing.

"Painted Lady" is not served well by its convoluting twists and character gridlock. There are just too many curves to follow. Especially grating is Sir Charles' son, Sebastian (Iain Glen), whose continual victimization recalls hapless Mr. Bill of the old "Saturday Night Live."

Mirren is persuasive as a lost soul reborn, and the staging is quite nice. Otherwise, ohhhhhh nohhhhhh!

*

* "Painted Lady" airs on "Masterpiece Theatre" at 9 p.m. Sunday on KCET-TV Channel 28.

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