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Hell on Heels: The Battle of Mary Kay

Truth is beauty.

This, as Mark Twain would say, is something like. Michael Ritchie could really not have done this any better, and in fact the acuity of it is in the line of the general run of all his work—in that sense, it’s a deserved tribute.

These are the days of television mega-empires run by carny shills and lowlifes, so it’s not surprising that many of the TV critics turned up their noses at The Battle of Mary Kay. The charm of it all is the portrait of Mary Kay Ash, a simple-hearted huckster who makes no bones about it (and then, beauty is truth), and who has realized, like Shaw’s Cleopatra, it’s not that she herself is so smart, but that the others are all so stupid. Parker Posey as the competition is a real surprise, an honest rags to cruel riches story stretched clean along the shorelines of the American dream. The script doesn’t miss much; these are very easy targets in their way, but all the implications stand easily on very firm shoulders, and the corporate credulity of American femininity is all written down and totted up for anyone to inspect who cares to have a laugh at the expense of—us.

Shirley MacLaine is a genius. Not since the Beeb put on The Billion Dollar Bubble with Sam Wanamaker and James Woods have businessmen been given so much business, and before that not since Executive Suite, in the general run of business.