- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

Prime time Lynch

A movie based on Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch’s rescue during the recent Iraq war might have made a great shoot-‘em-up … if the early accounts of her capture had proven true.

First, we were told Miss Lynch emptied her gun fighting back against Iraqi soldiers before being captured. As it turned out, the Washington Post’s early version of Miss Lynch’s plight proved inaccurate, a fact the newspaper and other media outlets quickly revealed.

Now NBC is taking a stab at the harrowing incident with “Saving Jessica Lynch,” a made-for-television movie airing Sunday at 9 p.m.

The actual story still packs plenty of drama, which the telefilm captures with surprising skill. The new movie is based not on Miss Lynch’s perspective — which will be recalled in her new book — but upon the accounts of Mohammed al-Rehaief, the Iraqi lawyer who helped rescue her.

Rushed-to-the-screen documentary dramas don’t inspire confidence, and the release of “Saving Jessica Lynch” during the November sweeps period is hardly reassuring.

Yet the film, starring little known Laura Regan (“They”) in the title role, proves competent and intermittently compelling.

The basic story is by now familiar. Miss Lynch’s maintenance unit is ambushed in Nasiriyah, and she and several soldiers are taken to an Iraqi hospital. A local lawyer whose wife works in the hospital sees her, is touched by her plight and risks all to save her.

The network effectively recreates the initial ambush, using jittery cameras and realistic gunfire exchanges to paint a claustrophobic firefight. Miss Regan has little to do throughout, except look alternately wounded, frightened and then hopeful.

The film can’t do much to flesh out Miss Lynch’s personal life. We’re treated to some perfunctory flashbacks and mild female bonding en route to Iraq, but her character is never deepened. Her physical resemblance to Miss Lynch must suffice.

“Lynch” paints the military as efficient, human and above the political fray, perhaps a wise choice in light of the public outcry that prompted CBS to dump “The Reagans.”

“Lynch” also treats the Iraqis with compassion. While it doesn’t soft-pedal the brutality of some soldiers, it paints others as simply caught up in the violent world of Saddam Hussein.

The film’s sole howler comes when the Iraqi lawyer’s wife confronts him about his dangerous rescue mission.

“This is all your mother’s fault. She poisoned your mind with all those John Wayne movies she showed you,” she cries. Even if true, the line will ring false to American ears.

“Saving Jessica Lynch” is as much Mr. al-Rehaief’s story as it is Jessica’s, which in the end may just make for a more resonant tale.

Ray ‘Toes’ the line

Sometimes it takes a complete stranger to tell someone their hairstyle went out of style a decade ago.

Tanika Ray, host of Lifetime’s “Head 2 Toe,” said no matter how many friends may tell us to change our appearance, we’re often too stubborn to do anything about it.

Maybe that’s why television is inundated with makeover shows that do the heavy lifting for us.

“Most of the time they say, ‘I would have never have done this, but I love it,’” she said.

Miss Ray’s program takes two best pals (friends, mothers and daughters, sisters) who make each other over with the help of style experts. The catch — and there’s always a catch with reality-style shows — is that the participants are blindfolded as the changes are happening to them, so they can’t see themselves until they are transformed.

“There’s something about surrendering to the process that makes it extra special at the end,” said Miss Ray, a District native who was raised in Los Angeles. “They’re blindfolded for hours, and their imaginations run wild.”

“Head 2 Toe” airs at 12:30 p.m. Saturdays.

Miss Ray said her show isn’t trying to make everyone look the same. She points to herself as proof.

“I definitely wouldn’t say that my hairstyle is one people would want,” she said of her electric ‘do. “My hair is wild and spiky; it expresses who I am. We try to make people look like themselves.”

The new show has seen a couple of makeovers, as Miss Ray puts it, “go sour.”

“The network likes that, but I hate it,” she said. “One woman was miserable… You could see her swallowing to hold back tears.”

Miss Ray and her team of style experts don’t get much time to spend with their charges, but she said strong bonds are formed through the process.

“It’s amazing how much they open up to you in these circumstances,” Miss Ray said. “When I meet these people, we’re strangers. By the end, they’re hugging me.”

Stewart speaks

ABC News.com

In her first interview since being indicted on charges related to stock trading, Martha Stewart tells Barbara Walters that she believes she will be exonerated.

“I would like to say that I have done nothing wrong, Barbara. I am innocent, and I think that the judicial system and the upcoming trial will prove that,” Stewart says in the exclusive interview airing tonight at 10 on ABC News’ “20/20.”

Miss Stewart, 62, will stand trial in January, facing charges of conspiracy, securities fraud, obstruction of justice and making false statements. If convicted of all charges, she could face a maximum of 30 years in prison. Her legal troubles began in December 2001 when Sam Waksal, the founder of ImClone, a biotechnology company, learned that the government was about to reject the application of ImClone’s promising cancer drug. Before that information became public, Mr. Waksal tried to unload millions of dollars worth of his own shares and tipped off some of his family to sell too. Those illegal stock sales set in motion an insider-trading scandal that enveloped Miss Stewart.

The homemaking guru also shares her thoughts on why some people dislike her and discusses her tumultuous personal journey from modest beginnings as a girl growing up in New Jersey to her rise to a onetime-billionaire entrepreneur.

“The people you think hate me don’t know me,” she tells Miss Walters. “I don’t know why people don’t like me. I’m not perfect.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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