Film Review: Lady Boss – The Jackie Collins Story ★★★★

Jackie Collins shot to international fame with erotic romance novels such as The World is Full of Married Men, Hollywood Wives, The Stud, and Chances – pushing a brand of sexually-empowered female protagonists that were not commonplace in the genre. Further insight into the novelist’s personal life and career is shown in Laura Fairrie’s documentary Lady Bossy: The Jackie Collins Story which us due for release on the 2nd of July.

Narrated by a cast of Jackie’s family and friends including Collins’ daughters, siblings, and closest friends, Lady Boss examines the novelist’s humble beginnings to the rise of her own literary empire. Delving into her various marriages and family dynamics, Lady Boss also explores Collins’ brand of feminism through her strong-willed sexually empowered protagonists and the mirrors between Collins’ writing and her own personal life.

Jackie became known for her mantra ‘Girls can do anything’ and the title Lady Boss – shared with Collins’ third Lucky Santangelo novel – also showcases the writer’s sense of ambition and feminist clout. Through a mix of archive footage, talking head interviews, and extracts from Collins’ novels, director Laura Fairrie gives us an insight into Jackie’s life and career – one that is not afraid to delve into the darker, less showbiz sides of the author’s career including troubled marriages, declines in popularity in the nineties, and her own cancer battle.

Opening by giving us a glimpse into Collins early-life and like her sister Joan, wrestling ambitions of acting, Lady Boss captures a sixteen year-old Jackie at a fly on the wall as a guest of her sister’s at various Hollywood parties. Jackie’s interactions with stars including Marlon Brando are explored with the novelist’s warmth and wit through narrated extracts of her own diaries, these observations often fuelling the inspiration behind some of her most scandalous and titillating novels.

From the success of Collins’ debut novel The World Is Full of Married Men in 1968, Lady Boss captures the author’s rise to international success, most intriguingly explored in the moment when tables turned and the adaptation of Collins’ novels The Stud and The Bitch would then prove a comeback vehicle for her sister’s faltering film career. Collins’ move to US would mark a further stratospheric rise in her stardom and success in terms of her literary work, by immersing herself in Hollywood, Collins would find masses of inspiration for novels such as Hollywood Wives.

Collins strength is explored in infamous examination of archive clips such as her sparring with Dame Barbara Cartland on Terry Wogan’s chat show – the articulate Jackie making a cause for her sexually-empowered brand of feminism. It’s therefore no shock when Lady Boss explores Collins’ warm interactions with fans – complete with her exuberant larger than life personality – who have found themselves more able to express themselves through the author’s work. Yet as the documentary goes on to chronicle Collins work throughout the decades, the nineties would prove a challenging time as showcased in an uncomfortable clip from discussion programme Kilroy where the novelist would be grilled by an aggressive audience, objecting to her brand of sexually-charged feminism.

Whilst Jackie’s strength and resilience are central to Lady Boss, we see the moments when this was tested including her sixties marriage to Wallace Austin – one filled with drugs and alcohol abuse to psychological torment. The sad passing of her second husband Oscar Lerman in 1992 also proved a devastating blow to Jackie, matched with struggles in her career at the same point. A tumultuous relationship with Frank Calcagnini in the mid-nineties is also explored, one where Jackie was forced to hide her passion from writing with Frank harnessing a bitterness towards Jackie’s success.

Jackie’s passion, resilience and ‘girls can do anything’ sentiment are captured in a warm, affectionate manner in Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story. Examining both the glitz and the grit beneath Jackie’s life, Laura Fairrie’s documentary gives a comprehensive and engaging glimpse into the life of a trailblazing figure in romance writing.

Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story is due for release Friday 2nd of July. Special preview screening details are available here.