Book Review: MOVIE STAR BY LIZZIE PEPPER by Hilary Liftin

movie star lizzie pepperMovie Star by Lizzie Pepper is not actually by Lizzie Pepper, who’s a fictional celebrity, but by Hilary Liftin, a ghostwriter who has collaborated on bestselling celebrity memoirs. But Movie Star is a novel. Confused yet?

The concept is that this book is a fake memoir by Lizzie, cowritten by the very real Liftin. Lizzie is a young famous actress swept up in a whirlwind romance with a much more famous actor and in all the ensuing paparazzi hullabaloo.

Life seems perfect, with the private jets and multiple mansions and public declarations of love from her man and the elaborate wedding—until Lizzie realizes everything might be too perfect.

Lizzie and Rob Mars, her superstar husband, never fight, and she can’t seem to penetrate his unflappable surface. And oh, yeah, there’s that mysterious, cultish organization he’s dedicated to.

This is a thinly disguised roman à clef of the Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes story, so most readers probably know how it begins, quickly escalates, and how it ends. But we don’t know what happened in the middle parts of this fairy tale gone wrong, and Liftin provides a fictional account here, a very readable one.

The author humanizes the movie stars, people who often seem too glossy to be real. Lizzie is no dummy and she’s grounded, but Rob’s courtship is very heady, and I could understand how she allows herself to get drawn into his world so fast she doesn’t realize what’s happening until she’s imprisoned by it.

Though Rob remains a cypher, even to Lizzie, Liftin portrays him sympathetically, not as a nut case, as many tend to label Cruise. Rob’s behaviors and beliefs stem from his conviction that he’s doing the best thing for himself and those around him, that he must always be the hero, offscreen as well as on. Sometimes, though, Lizzie just wants him to get angry, fart, be human.

Liftin also doesn’t vilify One Cell Studio, the organization to which Rob belongs and devotes much of his time. While some higher-ups at the studio do behave atrociously and are definitely creepy, not all members are that way, and the practices don’t seem as alien as some Scientology exercises are rumored to be.

In a Twitter culture with the masses instantly slapping unflattering labels on things and people they don’t understand, Liftin offers a different perspective on very public figures, perhaps asking that readers be less hasty to judge, and to appreciate our ordinary, human lives.

Amazon | IndieBound



  • Reply
    September 1, 2015 at 7:07 am

    Ugh/yay. I am so not a fan of Cruise or much of what he does, so why, if his real story didn’t interest me all that much, does THIS? Maybe because what IS interesting about Cruise is what is behind his perfect facade (and I’ve always felt that fake thing from him, too), and this delves into that, albeit in a fictional way. This book was hanging out on the fringe of my radar and I’m still not sure if I’ll read it, but this pushes it closer for sure.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      September 1, 2015 at 2:16 pm

      Yes, Liftin’s explanation for Rob’s behavior is interesting. He believes he’s being his best self because there’s no gain to showing his flaws. It’s kind of sad–a man afraid to be himself, even around those closest to him.

      • Reply
        September 1, 2015 at 5:45 pm

        Which is one reason Tom Cruise seems so damn boring. Flaws are the interesting parts. It is an interesting “belief,” however.

  • Reply
    September 1, 2015 at 11:03 am

    I like it that the book humanize a as opposed to villainizes Scientology, Cruise and the way we outsiders view that world. I think I’m with Lauren in that I’m sort of interested, but not sure how interested I am in reading about it.

    I was waylaid a few different times on the streets of Los Angeles and NYC into taking a “personality test” by seemingly innocent and very attractive women with clipboards. In each case, I was early for a meeting and killing time when I was approached. They took me into a clean room, gave me a couple of pages to fill out and checked back in on me, adding a couple more pages each time. What can I say, the women were very sweet and not pushy and they flirted with my younger, single self. Next thing I knew, I had answered almost 20 pages of multiple choice questions and had used up all my extra time. It was really tough to get out there. They didn’t restrain me, but they kept distracting me every time I said I had to leave. Finally, I just ran out the door. I didn’t realize until I looked back to see if I was being chased, that the entrance clearly said Church of Scientology.

    I never felt I was in danger. It did have a creepy factor of 7 out of 10, though.

    Maybe reading about it in my own place with the doors locked will be easier.

    Thanks, PCN.

    • Reply
      September 1, 2015 at 11:10 am

      What a great, creepy story! That’s the start of a good book right there. 🙂

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      September 1, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      I’ve had one encounter with Scientologists and agree they were friendly and not pushy at all.

      Many years ago, when I was part of touring theater company, our regular rehearsal space was under construction and our general manager needed another place to rehearse in and fast because we were about to put on a new show. She announced one morning we’d be rehearsing at the Scientology building on Melrose. The reason: the center had agreed to let us rehearse there for free.

      The actors all screamed: “It’s not free! We won’t be able to leave!” But alas, it wasn’t up to us. So we went.

      The theater there was gorgeous, with a clean, spacious stage and red velvet seats. Before we began, a rep from the center came, welcomed us, and said there were brochures on our way out if anyone was interested in learning more about what they do. It wasn’t a speech, just a brief welcome, without even one mention of Scientology.

      The rep left us alone after that, checked in once to ask if we needed anything, and…that was it. We rehearsed there a couple more days. No one accosted us or tried to push anything on us. Nothing creepy at all.

      I still don’t know anything about Scientology so I’m not endorsing or defending it. Just sharing my experience at one of its locations.

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