Denise Richards: It's Really Not That Complicated 

Wednesday, Jun 11 2008

The sport of spotting contradictions and dopey little ironies when stars try to rejigger their public image is really the only reason to watch celeb-reality shows like Denise Richards: It’s Complicated. (Hey, I still mourn the train wreck of tears and self-delusion that was, briefly, Hey Paula.) The big idea with this E! exercise in fly-on-a-famous-wall programming is that we’re supposed to see the curvaceous husband-swiper (Richie Sambora, from Heather Locklear) and thrillingly non-gifted actress (Wild Things, Starship Troopers) as a dedicated single mom ready to retire from being co-star of a bad marriage to Charlie Sheen and show the world Who She Really Is. Which is, apparently, a foul-mouthed spray-tan addict who thinks one more Playboy pictorial isn’t such a big deal and openly confesses a love for well-endowed men. (I can see the eHarmony ad now.)

In last weekend’s peppy installment, Richards gets excited about a meeting with producer Joel Silver that she hopes will point her movie career away from the sexy and toward the substantial. Silver smartly suggests she go the sitcom route — one thing going for Richards is an infectious, honest good humor — except then she happily obliges her Wild Things fan base with a strip-down in the shower for a bronze spritz beforehand, and camera time in a bra as she changes clothes at home afterward. Don’t go thinking this is some sneaky bit of editing retribution: Richards is a producer on the show. In fact, this ability to eat her cake and have it, too, regarding her well-ogled sexuality probably indicates she’s savvier than we all realize.

I wish Richards the best in finding some road out of tabloid-headline hell and onto that great Habitrail of fame-for-fame’s-sake happiness, but I think it’s safe to say she’ll never acquire enough nuanced image do-overs in her loopy spotlight life to warrant being the subject of an arty Todd Haynes biopic deconstruction down the road.

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