Friday, August 27, 2010

Reel Thoughts: Saved the Best for Last


“You went and saved the best for last.”
-- Vanessa Williams

And boy, did they! Ugly Betty has always been an GLBT-friendly treat, but the “Fourth and Final Season” now available on DVD ties up plot points with a big pink bow. From a beautiful season opener guest starring the late Lynn Redgrave (in her final, lovely performance) to Justin’s unforgettable Homecoming to Betty’s British invasion, you will find it hard picking a favorite episode.

Season Four starts with Betty (America Ferrera) finding her new promotion as associate features editor very challenging. Her new boss is her bitter ex-boyfriend Matt (Daniel Eric Gold) and her co-workers resent the favoritism Daniel (Eric Mabius) shows her. Her big sis Hilda (Ana Ortiz) is torn between her good guy boyfriend Archie (Ralph “Karate Kid” Macchio) and bad boy ex-flame Bobby Talercio (über-sexy Adam Rodriguez). She is also worried that her son Justin (the fabulous Mark Indelicato) is shutting her out and afraid to come out to her.


Meanwhile, back at Mode, Wilhemina Slater (Vanessa Williams) and her hot Aussie con man beau (sexy Grant Bowler) have a wild on-again/off-again relationship full of sneaky schemes and conjugal visits, but that’s nothing compared to what happens when her prodigal daughter (Yaya DeCosta from The Kids Are All Right) shows up covered in blood. BFFs Marc (Michael Urie) and Amanda (Becky Newton) get an unexpected third when aging temp and party girl Helen (Kristin Johnston) enters their lives, and shows Amanda what she might turn into if she isn’t careful.

Best of all, Justin finds love (a girl named Lily!) but has to compete for her affections with cutie-patootie schoolmate Austin (Ryan McGinnis). If you think that’s the end of his story, then you don’t know Ugly Betty. By the end of this snarky, hilarious and surprisingly moving series, Betty has definitely outgrown the “Ugly” moniker and you’ll love where she and the whole cast of characters wind up.


My favorite moments of the season are:
- Betty and Lynn Redgrave surrounded by hundreds of butterflies in "The Butterfly Effect Part 1".
- Justin’s rocky road to Homecoming hero at a public high school, and his final showdown with his sexuality after attending a performing arts school.
- Betty reunited with Christina (Ashley Jenson) in London, and Betty’s unexpected love connection as the series ends.
- Betty and Marc reduced to dressing as a wiener and a bun.


- Kristin Johnston’s clueless turn as Helen, who has the oblivious hots for Marc.
- One particular couple who has their sweet first dance at Hilda’s wedding reception.
- Daniel’s seduction by Jamie Lynn Sigler, who draws him into the spooky cult, the Community of the Phoenix, headed by even spookier Dylan Baker.
- The episode “Be-Shure” is a classic farce where both Betty and Hilda think they’re pregnant, and the only one who knows it is their dad Ignacio’s new girlfriend, Jean (Faith Prince), the pharmacist who sold the girls their pregnancy tests.


- Wilhemina coming face-to-face with her drag inspiration Wilheldiva Hater (played not-so-convincingly by her brother Chris Williams) and forcing him/her to do events Willi doesn’t want to do.
- Claire Meade’s touching reunion with the son she gave up for adoption (the hunky Neal Bledsoe) and his not-so-happy trip to New York City. Let’s just say that the alcoholic doesn’t fall too far from the tree.


- In “Million Dollar Smile”, Betty becomes braces-free and dreams of a world where she’s the pretty sister. Marc is a doting dad and Amanda is married to Daniel. Her guide to this alternate universe is her chatty orthodontist, played by Kathy Najimy.
- All those cameos! In addition to Redgrave, Najimy and Christie Brinkley as Willi’s arch-rival, there's more Broadway faves like Brian Stokes Mitchell, Christine Ebersole, Bryan Batt and Next to Normal’s Aaron Tveit (soon to be seen in Howl opposite James Franco), RuPaul, Varla Jean Merman, Carol Kane and, of course, Alec Mapa (as bitchy fashion reporter Suzuki St. Pierre).


Like many great people and things, Ugly Betty was cut down in her prime, but as the Fourth and Final Season proves, you want to go out on a high note and leave ‘em wanting more.

The DVD also includes such fun Bonus Features as "Betty Bloops", "Betty Goes Bahamas" and "Mode After Hours".

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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