Hostile Makeover Book & Lifetime Movie Review

Washington DC has its share of problems – corrupt politicians, astronomical living expenses, congested roadways to name a few. On top of all that, it’s the town fashion forgot. It’s a place where helmet-haired women in boxy power suits run rampant. Men in noose-tight neckties and high-water trousers roam the streets. Heck – the whole town is a What Not to Wear Fest!

Thankfully, Lacey Smithsonian, a crime reporter-turned fashion columnist, is on the beat. Okay now don’t roll your eyes just yet! This isn’t your typical trash-talking E Entertainment commentator. As a matter of fact, she’s not even into labels (ick!) and couture fashion. Heck, she doesn’t even want to write a fashion column, but it was the only reporting gig she could get after moving from Colorado to DC. With a nose for hard news, she manages to find her way on the front page. You see, the fashion industry is cutthroat – literally!

In the third  installment of Ellen Byerrum’s fun and frothy Crime of Fashion series, Lacey must solve the murder of Amanda Manville, a former “ugly duckling” turned supermodel beauty. Thanks to a highly disturbing makeover TV show, she got the full works in plastic surgery, hair extensions and cosmetic dentistry.

Now a stark-raving diva from hell (picture Shannon Doherty meets Janice Dickenson), she’s got more enemies than Naomi Campbell. Since she kicked her sweet, homely boyfriend to the curb and jumped in bed with her hotshot plastic surgeon, she’s been scratched off of a lot of Christmas card lists. Plus she’s taking credit for her sister’s Snazzy Jane fashion designs, so not cool! Soon enough, she starts receiving notes about her impending death from a crazed fan. Sure, death threats seem to come with the territory of celebrity stardom, but these foreboding notes seem to have a personal touch.

Aware of Lacey’s reputation for solving crimes with fashion clues, Amanda demands her to ferret out the murderous fiend before it’s too late. Lacey begrudgingly looks into the case and finds a slew of possible suspects. Could it be the jealous sister, who’s having some trouble adjusting to Amanda’s stardom and her own fading looks? Or is it the stalker who’s determined to defame the girl who broke his best friend’s heart? What the heck happened to the ex-boyfriend anyway? Was Amanda involved in his disappearance? You’ll have to read the book to find out! You could also watch the movie, but there’s way too many holes in the mystery, so I recommend reading the book first.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the Lifetime movie adaptations of the Crime of Fashion books. Yes, a lot of loose ends are left untied, and a bunch of quirky characters are left out of the mix. But I must say, Lifetime did a fine job with the cast. Here’s my little rundown of where Lifetime went right, and where they missed the mark.

The Cast

I don’t think they could’ve picked a better actress to play Lacey Smithsonian. Maggie Lawson fits the profile: Smart, sassy, guarded and ambitious.  She plays a believable investigative reporter, and her chemistry with Vic is great.

Speaking of Vic – wow! This actor really hit the mark. He’s the textbook definition of a tall, dark and handsome love interest. Plus he’s got some decent acting chops to boot!

The actress who plays Lacey’s mom is also a winner. She’s funny, sassy and little more stylish than her book counterpart. Despite its short length, the movie does a good job capturing her disapproval of Lacey’s DC lifestyle and fanatical obsession with feng shui. Her incessant nagging frustrates Lacey to no end, yet they still have some sweet mother-daughter moments.

As for the sister, I was picturing a blonde cheerleader type, not a gangly brunette. I’m not sure why they had to change up the sister in the series, but overall the actress does a good job portraying a sheltered ditz.

Tony Trujillo, Eye Street crime reporter and Lacey’s friendly rival, is way different in the TV series. I pictured more of an urban cowboy type, but Lifetime turned him into more of a metrosexual pretty boy. But you know what – I kind of like what they did with this smart ass character. He’s super cute and his quips are hilarious. Wouldn’t it be fun if his flirtations  with Lacey blossomed into something more?!?

Another TV character I really enjoy is Felicity Pickles, Eye Street Observer food editor, resident cookie baker, and copy-editing bitch from hell. In the book she’s a mousey, stringy haired frump. But in the series, she’s much more fashion forward with her Marilyn Monroe hairdo and red-hot stilettos. I wish they included her nerdy love interest, Harlan Weidmeyer. Known as the office jinx, he seems to be the cause of fluke accidents. It would have been fun to see how things developed between the accident-prone reporter and the office witch on the small screen.

The Besties

Here’s where the movie went right! I love how Lacey and her two best gal pals are one big happy family. In the books, however, Brooke (a pragmatic lawyer)  and Stella (a leather-clad hairstylist) aren’t fans of each other, so Lacey typically hangs out with them separately. But in the movies, I really enjoy their Ya Ya Sisterhood moments, like when they come to Lacey’s rescue after an attack, or when they just hang out and do silly girly girl stuff.

The Fashions

Lacey loves all things vintage. She drives a classic Z, wears 1940s frocks and loves old movies. On TV, she seems to wear more of a mix of vintage and contemporary styles. I’m not sure why they didn’t go all out with World War II era ensembles, but she looked cute nonetheless. What’s really missing is Aunt Mimi’s trunk! It’s really a shame they didn’t include this integral piece of the story. Filled with sewing patterns, old dresses and memorabilia, the trunk gives Lacey a sense of peace and calm during times of crisis. I’m hoping that at some point, Aunt Mimi will join Lacey as a ghostly sidekick!

OK Lifetime fans, what do you think? Did the movies do the books justice? Post a comment and share your thoughts! For more about the author, who just so happens to be a fashionable DC journalist, check out her Q&A.