Earlier this year, everyone (including this website) found themselves enthralled by the nuptials of Brooklyn Beckham and Nicola Peltz. It was an old-fashioned union, one between the children of two wealthy and powerful families, and as such all eyes were drawn to the Palm Beach wedding. Peltz’s name has successfully stayed in the headlines then, mostly due to the fact that she is NOT feuding with her mother-in-law.
But now she has a new thing to talk about! She has a role in the pilot of Welcome to Chippendales, Hulu’s newest foray into Los Angeles true crime stories set in the back half of the 20th century. Did you know she’s an actress? Kumail Nanjiani is the star of the show, playing Somen “Steve” Banerjee, the man who started the male strip revue and went on to hire a hitman to take out his business partner. But who gives a shit about him, we’re here for Peltz.
After a slew of iconic roles in films like Transformers: Age of Extinction and the Netflix Christmas movie Holidate, Peltz is turning her eye to docudrama. In Chippendales, she plays the Playmate Dorothy Stratten, and anyone who knows about Hollywood in the early ’80s knows that she probably isn’t going to appear in any episodes beyond the pilot. Spoilers ahead for a real thing that happened to a real person in 1980, I guess.
Stratten was murdered by her estranged husband Paul Snider, who died by suicide right after. She lived a fairly horrible life under Snider’s thumb, eventually getting enough distance from him to start a relationship with director Peter Bogdanovich. It was during an attempt to extricate herself from Snider that she was murdered in the home they used to share. It’s a tragic story, and Stratten is a tragic character. How do Peltz and the creative team behind Chippendales do at telling that story?
Here she is in her first scene drinking a pink squirrel. She doesn’t say much, as Snider (an always wonderful Dan Stevens) does most of the talking. When she does speak you might think, Oh that’s what her voice sounds like. It’s a very normal voice and I’ve heard it before, but for some reason it is always something of a shock. What else does she get up to?
Ignore the fact that this is a behind-the-scenes production image. Here’s Dorothy and Paul at a gay club where they like to dance. I assume they both like it because it’s the one place where men aren’t leering at her. It’s here where Dorothy gives Steve the idea for Chippendales; she’s losing her mind over a go-go boy, yelling, “Take it off!” Peltz does fine in this scene, because all she has to do is smile and whoop. She manages to look like someone who has had fun before, in a direct blow to the Posh Spice ethos.
Immediately after watching the dancer do his thing, Peltz is tasked with some of the hardest acting work of her career. Paul doesn’t think the idea of a “strip club for women” is a good one, and to rebuff him Dorothy says, “I have something to tell you Paul, something extremely shocking, but women get horny.”
It’s hard to describe the way Peltz says this line. It’s like she is an AI robot who hasn’t totally figured out human speaking cadence yet. Or maybe it’s more like an elementary school production of Shakespeare where everyone knows their lines but no one knows what they’re saying. You think she can’t outdo herself, and then 15 seconds later they ask her to say “But now with the whole sexual revolution thing it’s all coming out: Erica Jong, Deep Throat, the pill.” Based on this line reading, you can tell she knows exactly what 1.5 of those things are.
In Peltz’s big scene, she wears this hat. The best thing you can say about her in this show is that she always looks amazing, even when they put her in Dick Tracy cosplay.
It’s at this moment that I realized Chippendales would not be too interested in a real timeline of how things went down for our doomed Playmate. Dorothy and Paul go to a very nice restaurant for lunch, where Peter Bogdanovich comes to their table and asks Dorothy to come talk for a moment. She comes back and tells Paul that Bogdanovich wants her to audition for his new movie. But there are only 10 minutes left in the episode! How is she going to go off to New York, start an affair with Bogdanovich while filming, come back, move in with the director, and then get killed by Paul? Well, the answer is that she isn’t.
Instead, Peltz has circles acted around her by Stevens, who is losing his mind at the idea of another man being interested in her in any capacity. Peltz cannot convey the gravity of this moment, and instead just keeps on doing the vacant-eyed expression she’s done for the rest of the episode. We are sort of aware that she is angry though, because she storms out.
We then see her at the big opening of the revamped Chippendales (a new guy has come to give the show some oomph, but again, we are not here to talk about that.). The show asks us to believe that it is her who comes up with the idea for the men to wear collars and cuffs on their bare torsos. She is, I guess, the beating vagina of the Chippendales enterprise. She knows what will get women going. How we are to glean that is a question that never gets answered.
Next thing you know, she’s dead. That’s a wrap on both Nicola and Dorothy. In terms of performances in which blonde women play real-life murder victims who say almost nothing, Margot Robbie in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood still reigns supreme.
That’s not to say there is nothing to be taken away from Nicola’s performance. If anything, it helps clarify why she and Beckham are such a perfect match. They’re two nepotism babies without an ounce of charisma who refuse to let that get in the way of their dreams. Now one is making canned sake and one is taking over streaming! Talk about inspiring. Someone should make a show about that.