Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Secret Obsession, or: Pics or It Didn’t Happen?

Sometimes we celebrate freaks and weirdos on the blog. At other times, we wait for them to die. In this week’s film, the latter is appropriate for our stalker, murderer, and buyer of lye in bulk.

The Film:

Secret Obsession

The Premise:

After an accident wipes out her memories, Jennifer returns to her life as a newlywed with her husband…or at least the man who claims to be her husband.

The Ramble:

Running in terror from an unknown assailant, Jennifer is hit by a car when she runs out onto a dark and stormy road. After being rushed to the hospital, a man who claims to be her husband arrives, waiting for news on her condition. Conveniently, everyone just believes him and never asks for proof of his identity (beyond knowing Jennifer’s name and her tattoos???).

A man sits next to a woman lying in a hospital bed, who is wearing several bandages and casts.

Meanwhile, the Allstate guy plays a detective sent to investigate Jennifer’s accident (perhaps appropriately as the face of an insurance company?). Because his daughter disappeared at the age of 10, Detective Frank is determined to solve Jennifer’s case(?). Yeah, I’m not seeing the connection either, TBH.

When it becomes clear that Jennifer’s head trauma has affected her memory, it’s up to husband Russell to fill in the gaps. Or, conveniently, for an impostor to plant a bunch of fake memories in her brain. Don’t worry, though–he has the pictures to back it up. According to Russell, he and Jennifer are newlyweds who have recently moved to a remote cabin. Her parents died a couple of years ago in a fire, and Jennifer has quit her job to start a family with Russell…leaving no connections left in the world.

After making enough progress to return home, Jennifer discovers their house is not even remotely ADA compliant and struggles to get around with a healing leg. Russell is ever so nicely willing to help her get around, carrying her up to their room while leaving her without a wheelchair.

A man carries a woman up a wooden staircase.

Discovering a witness (or something?) trying to contact Jennifer, Russell makes the obvious next move of following and killing this dude (even though I honestly don’t understand who he is or why he’s around). Of course, this leaves Russell with a body to bury…and he naturally chooses the backyard. Suspicious when she spots him digging around the garden late at night, Jennifer starts investigating.

A woman picks a lock with hairpin.

What she uncovers is a bunch of Photoshopped pictures–in fact, all of the images in their wedding album have been altered. On top of this, Jennifer has a flashback while in bed with Russell, so she pumps the brakes on rekindling their relationship. Losing his temper, Russell reveals his dark and creepy side (or, rather, yet another dark and creepy side).

When we catch up with Detective Frank, we discover that (shocker) Russell provided a fake address to the police. Frank also connects the dots on a white pick-up truck that was spotted at the scene of the accident…and security footage of Russell arriving at the hospital in a white pick-up truck. After identifying Jennifer’s back tattoo as some sort of symbol for the name Allen(?!??!?!?!), Frank is able to locate her parents’ home. Surprise surprise, the occupants of the home are no longer in this world and have been mummified or something? They didn’t have pleasant deaths is the moral of the story. (Which surely would merit, IDK, having more than ONE dude investigating this shit???)

A man in a suit sits in front of a computer, working in a police station.

As it turns out, Russell is really Jennifer’s coworker Ryan, who was obsessed with her. After years of yearning for Jennifer from afar, it’s Russell who pulls off the office romance and marries her. On the night of Jennifer’s accident, Ryan attacked the newlyweds, killing Russell and terrorizing Jennifer.

Realizing how fucking creepy her so-called husband is, Jennifer tries to leave the house, but Ryan is one step ahead of her. When Frank manages to track Ryan down, he is caught off-guard with this psycho’s signature move: whacking people in the back of the head. To be fair, it’s a pretty solid choice for a stalker and murderer.

Will Jennifer and Frank be able to take down the unhinged Ryan before he can make use of all of that lye he bought on sale?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

JFC, this film is bland and not at all suspenseful. It’s very PG-13 for a film dealing with such a horrific concept, and conveniently ignores reality whenever it moves the plot along. For example, neither the hospital nor the police seem too concerned with verifying shit like people’s names and addresses. For fuck’s sake, I have to show my ID to pick up mail–there’s no way Ryan is skating through so many offices without having to prove his identity.

I feel for Jennifer, of course, but she’s so completely devoid of personality that it’s difficult to care about her a whole lot beyond just generally taking a feminist stance against, you know, stalking and murdering people. It may have helped to get more glimpses into her life before the accident, but IDK…Jennifer was probably boring then too.

The most offensive part of this film to me is the absolute pointlessness of Frank’s story. His fictional daughter’s kidnapping has nothing to do with this case, and it’s a major stretch to connect these two events. If you follow the thriller formula, Frank’s daughter should have been murdered by Ryan or at the very least Frank should have known Jennifer in some way. Beyond that, Frank is just a cop doing his job, and that doesn’t make for a good story.

The “closure” that Jennifer gets at the end (and Frank for that matter) is absolute garbage too. I wanted a more badass ending for her, but we were never going to get that. This is the ending of a TV movie that doesn’t lean into its trashiness–and all I ask from a TV movie is for it to embrace its own nonsense.

Would my 100% real and unedited blog wife follow this one to the ends of the earth or push it in front of a fast-moving vehicle? Find out in her review here!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Juliet, Naked, or: Everyone, Fully Clothed

Freaks, fuck-ups, misfits, outsiders–they’re quite well represented in this week’s film. Some of them more lovable than others.

The Film:

Juliet, Naked

The Premise:

After years of living with her boyfriend’s obsession with a former musician, a woman in a quiet seaside town starts up a correspondence with the aforementioned rocker.

The Ramble:

Though he’s lived with girlfriend Annie for 15 years, Duncan’s true love is has-been rocker Tucker Crowe. Their shared home is filled to the brim with Crowe’s records, posters, and other paraphernalia. When he’s not teaching at the local college, Duncan is debating the finer points of Crowe’s music and moderating the fan site he runs.

A man hunches over a laptop in a dark study, video chatting with 3 other men.

After 15 years, Annie is understandably sick of this shit. Having lived in a small coastal town nearly all of her life, she is beginning to regret the decisions she’s made that seem irreversible at this point: taking over her father’s role as director of the local history museum, caring for her sister rather than having children of her own, and staying in her stagnant relationship with Duncan.

When a CD addressed to Duncan mysteriously arrives in the mail, it becomes an unexpected catalyst in Annie’s life. The CD is the legendary Juliet, Naked, a preliminary version of Crowe’s seminal album that has never been released. Annie decides to give the CD a listen, thus depriving Duncan of the opportunity to be the first listener of these Crowe recordings. Of course, Duncan believes the work to be the achievement of a true genius, while Annie finds it incredibly dreary.

A woman sits on the floor in front of a bed, holding a CD with an indecisive expression.

Annie speaks her truth in the form of a comment on Duncan’s review, gaining some traction with a few who agree. Among those supporters is the man himself, who emails Annie in response. Annie begins an unlikely correspondence with Crowe, who now lives in the garage behind his ex’s house, where he does very little beyond spend time with his youngest son.

When Duncan meets a new member of the faculty who happens to be a major fan of Tucker Crowe as well, it’s the final nail in the coffin. Duncan has an affair and tells Annie the truth about it, ending their relationship at last.

The breakup coincides nicely with Crowe’s visit to London to meet his first grandchild. Before he can meet up with Annie, Crowe suffers a heart attack and is hospitalized. The two plan to reschedule their day out after a huge family fight involving many of Crowe’s children and mothers of those children.

To spend more time with Annie, Crowe invites himself to visit her hometown. Inevitably, they run into Duncan, who doesn’t believe the man interested in Annie is the real Tucker Crowe. Duncan eventually accepts the truth and expresses his admiration for Crowe over dinner–and Crowe is just not having it. Having given up his music and lifestyle as a pseudo-famous rocker, Crowe steers clear of the spotlight and cringes at the adulation.

A woman stands on a beach between two men, throwing side eye towards one of them.

With five children on both sides of the pond, Crowe hasn’t always been an attentive father. He feels youngest son Jackson is his last chance to be a good father, as the ship has long sailed with daughter Grace, who he’s never had a relationship with.

As Annie bonds with Crowe and Jackson, she begins to imagine a future much different than the one that seemed inevitable just a few weeks earlier. However, pragmatic Annie knows that Crowe will return to the States to remain close to his son, and makes it clear she’d like a clean break when he leaves.

Will the changes Annie has made in her life stick?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

It’s quite apparent this film is based on a Nick Hornby novel (even if you don’t Google it), for better or worse. I do enjoy the maturity and self-awareness of this film; not only does it poke fun of music fanboys and their obsessions, but it also reflects sincerely on the challenge of continuing to grow when you fear making necessary life changes. Annie is a very self-sacrificing character, but she learns to recognize the ways she uses helping others as a way to avoid pursuing the things she wants.

While it’s overall a very sweet film, part of me wanted Annie to be more of a bad bitch. She had so many golden opportunities to be petty and rub her relationship with Crowe in Duncan’s face, which I desperately wanted her to do. I am also basically immune to swearing, but that must be the only reason this film is rated R? Absolutely no one gets naked in this film.

I do like that the character growth feels real; Annie and Crowe both make changes in their lives, but they don’t radically transform. The performances are solid too, though some of the characters could have been filled in more fully. Not a bad way to spend an hour and half at all.

Would my rock star blog wife wallpaper her room with posters of this film or not even rank it in her top 50? Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Valley of the Dolls, or: Don’t Take the Red Pill

In a world of outsiders desperately trying to be insiders, the tensions are high, the sparkles are everywhere, and the bobbed hair flips out on the ends in perfectly groomed waves. It’s show business in the 1960s, and it takes a dedicated woman to succeed…but no one is ever too far from failure in…the Valley of the Dolls.

The Film:

Valley of the Dolls

Premise:

Three modern women of the ’60s experience the glamorous life of the theater in their own ways, yet all share shocking encounters with drugs, alcohol, and sex.

The Ramble:

Anne Welles is a modern girl who goes to the big, bad city to work for a theatrical lawyer who represents actors, agents, directors, and the like. After overcoming the hurdle of being too good-looking to work for him [insert eye roll here], Anne manages to convince the lawyer to give her a chance.

She fails in her first assignment to get diva Helen Lawson to sign her contract; Helen is far too busy getting new talent Neely O’Hara fired. Neely promptly quits when she is cut from the show, but is picked up for a telethon and then becomes a success on the night club circuit.

A woman performs in front of a group of women answering calls as part of a telethon for cystic fibrosis.

Anne, meanwhile, is determined to leave this dreadful business behind her…until she meets mega hottie Lyon Burke. Hot in a 1960s businessman kind of way I guess? It isn’t long before a dramatic towel drop scene happens between them, though Anne doesn’t think Lyon will prove to be the marrying type.

A man and woman face each other on a dark street.

Jennifer North is another young woman who dreams of the spotlight, but fears she has nothing but her looks. When she meets heartthrob night club singer Tony Polar, it’s not long before they’re married. However, Tony’s protective sister Miriam has reservations…as she’s keeping a dark secret about his health.

A blonde woman in a low-necked top holds a corded phone to her ear in a small bedroom.

As Neely’s star rises, she and longtime boyfriend Mel marry. Neely’s schedule is demanding–when she’s not onstage, she’s rehearsing or exercising endlessly. To deal with her stress, Neely begins taking “dolls,” aka prescription drugs that she takes waaaaaaay more often than recommended on the label.

Anne gets her own taste of fame when an ad exec notices her as an ordinary girl (lololololol) who he wants for a major upcoming campaign. After splitting with Lyon, who bizarrely wants to settle down and roast chestnuts over an open fire for the rest of their days, Anne ends up with the exec and with some recognition as the face of the campaign.

A woman with an elaborate up-do powders her face while looking into a compact mirror, with funky multi-colored lights around her.

While Neely is winning awards and having affairs, Jennifer receives bad news about her husband’s health, and Anne is hooking up with Lyon again. Tony ends up in a sanitarium, which Jennifer worries she won’t be able to afford. She begins performing burlesque and appears in some naughty French films to pay the bills.

To the surprise of no one, Neely’s first marriage ends in divorce. She remarries but is more dependent on drugs and alcohol than ever. This proves devastating to her career, not to mention her health when she, too, is committed to the sanitarium for rehab.

A woman with messy hair sits at a bar with a drink and cigarette, while a man leans creepily towards her.

Jennifer, meanwhile, is tired of making dirty films and tries to get the money she’s owed and leave the industry. In the end, a diagnosis finishes her career and wraps up her story quite tragically.

After Neely’s release, Anne realizes what a trainwreck she is and demands Lyon stop representing her as an agent. The inevitable affair between Neely and Lyon drives Anne to abuse prescription pills too.

Perhaps the only one left who’s willing to stand up to Neely is absolute legend Helen Lawson, who is none too pleased about her comeback. Neely is horrible to her and admittedly Helen says some petty things about Neely’s serious addiction problems, but I will always love the bitchy older woman. Team Helen all the way.

Will the dolls win out in the end?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

For a melodrama that has become something of a cult classic, there’s nothing especially interesting or scandalous about this. I do love the 1960s aesthetic and have a love/hate relationship with all of the unnecessary musical numbers.

This film also does a terrible job at establishing relationships. Our three main ladies are supposed to be friends, but there are maybe two scenes where they actually interacted in a friendly way? And I can’t think of any scenes where they were in the same room together. I was hoping we’d at least get a nice scene where they all get brunch or something.

I suppose to some degree it’s a sign of the times, but the f word gets thrown around pretty casually and it’s rather jarring. The f word that’s sometimes used to refer to gay men; THAT f word. I was hoping for our liberated ladies to be a bit more progressive…and a bit more liberated, for that matter. This film does NOT know what to do with a career woman.

The most interesting character to me is Helen Lawson, honestly. She gives off a bit of a Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard vibe, but sadly enjoys much less screen time. Honestly, so much of what this film aims for is done so much better in Sunset Blvd, which really is a shocking and intriguing movie.

A middle-aged woman with a '60s hairstyle sits in front of a mirror, holding a cigarette.
What a queen.

Perhaps the most striking element of this film is Sharon Tate’s performance, which is impossible to disconnect from her death two years after the film’s release. She’s so lovely and full of life here that it hurts, and approaches the role with a vulnerability that gives an otherwise flat character depth. It makes me sad that she’s known more widely for her murder rather than her talent as an actor, as her film career was cut short so early.

Would my lovely blog wife keep the booze and pills flowing or immediately throw them in an outdoor swimming pool? Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Ingrid Goes West, or: Wham Bam Instagram

Fuck-ups, freaks, weirdos–they’re all welcome here on the Blog Collab this month. And during any month, TBH. This week’s pick is about a rather eccentric character, played by an actor who I like to believe is just as odd in real life.

The Film:

Ingrid Goes West

The Premise:

A grieving woman becomes obsessed with an Instagram celebrity, using her posts to find and befriend her IRL.

The Ramble:

Ingrid is a young woman who is a liiiiiiittle intense about her social media habit. After discovering through Instagram that her friend got married without sending an invite her way, Ingrid crashes the party with a special gift for the bride: a can of mace.

A woman with a tear-stained face speaks angrily to the bride at a wedding reception.

As it turns out, Ingrid’s mother has recently died, driving her erratic behavior. She is institutionalized and ultimately released to the empty house she shared with her mom.

Turning to social media for human connection, Ingrid finds Instagram influencer Taylor Sloane and immediately becomes obsessed, following her life religiously as Taylor’s feed replaces all of Ingrid’s relationships.

A young woman lies reclined on a home hospital bed, holding up her cell phone as she looks at it.

After Ingrid comes into money following her mother’s death, there seems to be only one course of action: use the cash to head west to LA and track down her idol Taylor. This is rather easy, honestly, considering the number of posts Taylor shares per day with her current activities and exact location.

When she strikes out upon their first meeting, Ingrid develops a backup plan to fall into Taylor’s good graces: steal her dog and then miraculously “find” him. The scheme works like a charm, and Ingrid becomes instant friends with Taylor and her husband. Ingrid manages to get more time with Taylor by offering to help her tow a trailer with her pick-up truck. The only obstacle? Ingrid doesn’t have a pick-up truck.

Luckily, Ingrid’s Batman-obsessed landlord Dan finds her charming and takes minimal convincing to let her borrow his truck. The only condition is for Ingrid to return the truck in time for a table reading for Dan’s script–during which she will fill in for Catwoman.

Two women stand next to each other, with desert landscape behind them. One holds a cell phone, while the other looks over her shoulder at the screen.

Of course, Ingrid’s only priority is spending time with Taylor. Complications abound when the car breaks down and Taylor wants to stay out late partying. Following a night fueled by coke and liquor, Ingrid scratches up the truck. Since Dan hasn’t heard from her all night, he calls the police–out of concern for her rather than his truck. Dan seems to genuinely care about Ingrid. Poor, poor man.

A man and woman sit next to each other in a booth in a dimly lit restaurant.

As Ingrid is folded into Taylor’s circle, she meets her new bestie’s troubled brother, Nick. During a relaxing weekend away, Nick steals Ingrid’s phone and learns the extent of her obsession. When he attempts to blackmail Ingrid, she comes up with an ill-fated scheme of her own that Taylor learns about. After the truth emerges, Taylor wants nothing to do with Ingrid.

There seems to be no hope of getting back in Taylor’s good graces…but surely it’s worth trying anyway?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Aubrey Plaza, who seems to be quite quirky herself, is perfectly cast as unhinged Ingrid. She manages to be quite entertaining to watch even as she does disturbing and problematic things. Her attempt at being a sexy Catwoman for Dan especially stands out.

The film’s humor is sharp and incredibly dark, but I find this to be a very tragic film. As expected in a film about social media, there are some very troubling implications for our own lives here; however, it goes beyond the doom and gloom “social media will kill us all” trap that other social commentary pieces can fall into. The film is very interested in the effects of social media on our psychology, behaviors, and relationships–and the extent to which it allows us to avoid these things when they become difficult.

Ingrid’s obsession with Taylor is really about the void in her life left by the death of her mother. When she is unable to find the love and support to overcome this in the real world, she turns to the internet for validation. As she later reveals, Ingrid is fully aware of what an inaccurate representation of life Taylor depicts on her account; however, she still wants to believe the fantasy. Even as she scorns the empty popularity game of Instagram, Ingrid craves attention and approval from her followers.

I appreciate Ingrid’s dilemma as I frequently have a love/hate relationship with social media. I keep up with so many people I probably would have lost touch with because of my social media accounts. But I do worry that I’m only representing myself superficially on these accounts (and, likewise, that others are doing the same). There are times when I use these accounts to avoid face-to-face human interaction; some days I don’t talk to anyone except by text. And I can’t count the number of times I’ve posted something brilliant and gotten annoyed when people haven’t shown their appreciation and liked it immediately.

On a side note, I will support any film that successfully incorporates the K-Ci and JoJo ballad “All My Life” into a scene.

Would my darling blog wife track this one down at all of its favorite spots or unfollow immediately? Read her review here to find out!