Entertainment TV Delta Goodrem is no Olivia Newton bomb in must-see Hopelessly Devoted to You
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Delta Goodrem is no Olivia Newton bomb in must-see Hopelessly Devoted to You

delta goodrem in the Olivia Newton-John biopic
Delta Goodrem absolutely "nails" the role of Olivia Newton-John. Photo: Channel 7
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Delta Goodrem nails the role of Olivia Newton-John in Channel 7’s biopic Hopelessly Devoted to You, which starts on Sunday, May 13.   

What’s more she’s arguably even sexier, more beautiful and a better singer than the original.

This two-parter is also probably a sanitised version of Newton-John’s life – particularly given the title – but who cares?  It’s entertainment, not a documentary. And it works a treat.

Gone are the horrendous wigs and poor casting of 7’s last biopic – Hoges – which quite rightly bombed last year. 

“Does Goodrem work? Yes she does.” Photo: Channel 7

Rising from the ashes is a well told romp through the life of an Australian icon and, for once, it’s about a successful woman.

It follows 50 years in Newton-John’s life – from a bubbly, insecure, pretty 16-year-old Melbourne schoolgirl, beautifully played by Morgan Griffith, who made her name in Charlie and Boots with Paul Hogan and Shane Jacobsen.

Morgan Griffith as a young ONJ. Photo: Channel 7

Channel 7 has only released the first episode for preview, so we don’t know where it ends – but, for now, we see her first serious debut in the world-stopping film Grease, shortly after Griffith hands the role to Goodrem.

Goodrem, 33, may be the calling card here – but this episode, at least, delivers because of an incredibly strong and talented support cast. Just as well, because after an opening scene, she is not seen again until 48 minutes into the first episode.

The whingers will say George Xanthis isn’t John Travolta, but he gives it a red-hot go and his performance works.

We see disappointments along the way – disdainful producers at Decca and a first single flop. Not to mention an atrocious film which thankfully disappeared after a week.

We see the marring of her childhood by her parents’ divorce, which turns her against marriage. 

delta goodrem in the Olivia Newton-John biopic
Delta Goodrem as Sandy in Grease. Photo: Channel 7

But we’re told her caring German Mum (played wonderfully by Robyn Malcolm) more than balanced her apparently cruel English Dad (Richard Blight), who dismisses Newton-John’s voice as “rather weedy”.

There are indications that Newton-John, now 69, didn’t make great choices in her early relationships with Bruce Welch, from English band The Shadows, (played convincingly by Hugo Johnstone-Burt in a slightly bad wig), or businessman Lee Kramer (Todd Lasance). Both controlled her life as lovers and managers.

And there were small mentions of the bad press she got at the start of her career.

“If white bread could sing, it would be Olivia Newton John,” wrote one reviewer.

Despite these setbacks, the overall tone is a celebration – particularly with the arrival in 1960s London of her best mate, Pat Carroll (Kate Jenkinson) and the formation of their successful duo. 

The pace of the story means there is little depth, but the real question is: Does it entertain? Yes, it does. And does Goodrem work? Yes, she does.

Just compare the TV series treatment of Olivia’s first appearance on the The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in the US in the 1970s, with the real thing available on Youtube.

That’s when it becomes apparent that Goodrem now outperforms her hero, the real Olivia Newton-John.

Here’s a bold prediction. This could be a Gold Logie winning performance by Goodrem.

Remember how Samuel Johnson won it for his performance of Molly Meldrum in the Channel 7 biopic Molly?  In the audience’s mind, a vote for Johnson was also a vote for Molly.  A vote for Goodrem would also be a vote for Olivia.  A powerful combination.

Part 1 of Hopelessly Devoted to You screens on Channel 7 on May 13 at 8.30pm 

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