Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

A Royal Night Out, or: God, Raves the Queen

If you can’t party after literally defeating the Nazis in Europe, when exactly is an appropriate time to celebrate?  That is the philosophical question this week’s film considers, while also pondering how many people in 1945 England just happened to have Hitler effigies lying around for an improvised Bonfire Night.

The Film:

A Royal Night Out

The Premise:

After the Allied victory in WWII, princesses Elizabeth and Margaret spend a wild night out on the town.

The Ramble:

May 8, 1945, aka VE Day.  It seems as if all of London is off to celebrate–everyone, that is, except for two Windsor princesses very much in need of a night out.

After much pleading with their parents, Elizabeth and Margaret finally strike a deal:  the two sisters will get a night out until 1:00am, provided they return with a report on how the masses respond to the King’s midnight address (most likely feedback:  who the eff picks midnight as a good time to address the nation?!?!).  Though they will attempt to blend in with the crowd, they will be accompanied by two royal guards, who will serve as their chaperones.

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Margaret is so ready to party that she doesn’t even care.  Dressed in matching pink, the two are vaguely reminiscent of the twins in The Shining as they descend the grand staircase.  I absolutely cannot imagine willingly matching my sister’s outfit for a night out on the town, but hey…different times.

Almost immediately, the princesses’ plans seem to be thwarted when they end up in a ritzy party full of the stuffy old nobility (is there any other kind?).  Margaret gets into shenanigans with a naval officer and easily ditches all members of her party.  Elizabeth loses the guards too, but doesn’t manage to catch up with her sister.

While Elizabeth does manage to hitch a ride on the bus in pursuit of Margaret, she is on a decidedly less fun bus.  Even on the boring regular bus, fares must be paid–a thought that hasn’t occurred to Elizabeth.  Luckily, her seatmate Jack, an airman, comes to the rescue by paying her fare, though they both manage to fall off the bus in a way that’s sweet in a rom-com, but would be horrendously painful in real life.

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Having failed to track down Margaret, Elizabeth is in a bar when the clock strikes midnight.  The rowdy masses quiet down and respectfully listen to George’s speech–everyone except for Jack.  He reacts angrily to the speech and dismisses all of the posh gits in power.  Elizabeth is annoyed but needs help getting to Trafalgar Square, where she believes she’ll find Margaret.  There are so many goddamn people in that square that that I would have immediately turned around and gone home, sister or no sister.

Margaret has, in fact, gone to Trafalgar–but by now she’s on her way to a house of ill repute with , who drugs her drink(!?!??!?!).  The owner of this establishment, who seems to be some kind of mafioso (or whatever kind of person just happens to collect horse heads in a bucket), comes to her rescue.  True to form, Margaret is keen to get to the next place rumored to have a great party, and she now has a new escort.

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Elizabeth and Margaret finally reunite, though their guards and the military police happen to arrive at the same location.  When the military police seize Jack, Elizabeth reveals her true identity.  But can she help him even though he can never be…part of her world?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Imagine a film is made about your epic night out…and you basically just drink and dance and come home a little past curfew.  Don’t get me wrong–our leads in the film are great, and Princess Margaret is appropriately the queen of partying.  (Speaking of the cast, I would have killed for Emily Watson and Rupert Everett to have more to do; I love them so much, but most of their cues in the script must have been “look disapproving.”)  However, this night out is a bit of a non-story, and I have trouble understanding the point of this film.  We learn about the experiences of royalty and civilian alike during the war, and even get a sobering look at neighborhoods bombed in the Blitz.  Everything else about this film is so breezy that these moments don’t have the emotional impact they should.

For a film about a night out, there’s a lot of time spent running around London in a farcical way, which gets tiresome.  And it may not be a great sign for a film when a decent number of major plot points remind me of Disney’s Aladdin?  But without the catchy songs and upbeat genie sidekick.  Perhaps I also had unrealistic expectations of how the film’s plot would play out.

Things I Expected But Did Not Happen in This Film:

  • Rupert Everett and Emily Watson are crowned the actual King and Queen of England in honor of their disapproving frowns
  • Princess Margaret runs away and becomes an acrobat but is fired after she tries to skin the circus animals to make a fur shrug
  • Princess Elizabeth joins a group of anarchists determined to rid the UK of the monarchy
  • Jeeves and Wooster are chased around a nightclub after stealing a cow creamer

Things That Did Happen in This Film:

  • Elizabeth rather elegantly chugs a pint
  • Margaret goes to a club of ill repute and refers to herself as P2 in an incredibly posh manner
  • Elizabeth pushes around a passed out Margaret in a wheelbarrow
  • Emily Watson as the Queen Mother imperiously asks “Hwhere have you been?”
  • King George VI reveals his most secret (and arguably saddest) desire:  to ride public transit

The moral of the story is I only care about the royal family when they’re being insane, and there’s not a ton of that going on here.  Where is the Princess Margaret movie we deserve???

Would my blog wife crown this one queen or wear the crown herself?  Find out by reading her review here!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Lady J, or: Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?

Soft laughter echoing across marble stairs.  Gently twirling parasols.  Delicate lace sleeves.  More hats than you could wear in a lifetime.  It can only be period drama month on the Blog Collab.

The Film:

Lady J

The Premise:

A woman of the French nobility seeks revenge on the libertine who broke her heart.

The Ramble:

The Marquis des Arcis is a piece of work, let me tell you.  A libertine who claims to love all of his conquests, the Marquis has his sights set on widowed Madame de La Pommeraye.

Fully aware of his terrible reputation, Pommeraye resists his advances, proclaiming her belief in friendship only, not love.  However, the Marquis and his charm begin to take effect, and the two become lovers.

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Even from the French countryside, news travels fast, and Pommeraye becomes the subject of nasty gossip in Paris.  Unconcerned as their love is so pure, Pommeraye prances merrily along.

When the Marquis must travel for business, so our troubles begin.  As he travels more frequently, he becomes increasingly distant.  Unable to take it any longer, Pommeraye confronts the Marquis about the lack of love between them.  Heartbroken over their breakup, Pommeraye nevertheless remains friends with her ex…while also doing some scheming.  Of course there’s scheming.

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After hearing some scandalous gossip from her bestie, Pommeraye hatches an inspired plan.  The scandal involves a woman born out of wedlock who nevertheless makes a good match to a member of the nobility.  As it turns out, her fiancé is a next-level schemer, and arranges for a fake wedding.  When she takes him to court, this woman inevitably loses, and turns with her daughter to a den of vice (le gasp) where they earn a living through sex work.

Inspired to seek vengeance against the Marquis with these two women, Pommeraye sets them up in a flat of their own as long as they follow the path of righteousness.

After introducing the Marquis to her pious friend and lovely daughter, he becomes obsessed.  So consumed with his thoughts of Mademoiselle J, the Marquis begs Pommeraye to reunite them.  Pommeraye at last allows him to join them for dinner when he “happens to be in the neighborhood.”  During dinner, Pommeraye grills him on the questionable morality of libertines and prods him to speak in praise of living by the words of Christ.

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Hiring the equivalent of 19th century PIs, the Marquis tracks down Mademoiselle J and propositions her repeatedly.  He writes romantic letters, offering jewels, houses, monthly income, and significant amounts of his fortune.

Pommeraye, intercepting his letters, urges Madame J to reject all of these offers as they are not enough.  Finally, the Marquis realizes the only acceptable offer is one of marriage, which Mademoiselle J is reluctant to accept.  Conflicted about lying about her past and her feelings for the Marquis, Mademoiselle J eventually accepts as a way to provide for her mother.

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Shortly after the wedding, Pommeraye takes Madame J and the newlyweds on a fun day trip…to the den of vice (dun dun dun).  How will the Marquis react when he learns the truth about Mademoiselle J’s past and Pommeraye’s present schemes?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  I am always here for a period drama.  The scenery, the costumes, the melodrama, the passive-aggressive lines of dialogue–I love it so much.

Though the obvious comparison is probably Dangerous Liaisons, this is actually quite sweet for a revenge film. Pommeraye herself starts out as a somewhat sympathetic character, but her schemes ultimately have the power to hurt a lot of people and she gives zero fucks.

I appreciate that this is reasonably progressive concerning women’s sexuality, especially where period dramas are concerned.  The Marquis is of course a bit of a douche when it comes to Mademoiselle J’s past as a sex worker, but the story resists the idea that she is somehow unclean or immoral.  Meanwhile, Pommeraye’s schemes actually do, as promised, ensure that a man no longer acts as a libertine (though not necessarily in the way she intends).

There’s also quite a lot of farcical fun here.  The scene at dinner cracked me up with all of the uncomfortable squirming the Marquis endured.  The amount of times he unconvincingly just happens to bump into Madame J and her daughter is quite entertaining too.

Would my blog wife remain steadfast or plan an elaborate fake wedding just to get this one off her case?  Find out by reading her review here!

a woman with a tumbler of alcohol sits in a chair, holding a cigarette and looking ahead
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Frida, or: Cry Me a River(a)

Our experiment with biopics and films based on true stories draws to a close!  This week, we break away from the subtheme of dirtbag men…and yet still manage to get our share of dirtbaggery.  We’re talking about women in the art world, after all–specifically, a painter who is now one of the world’s most renowned.

The Film:

Frida

The Premise:

This biopic follows the life of Frida Kahlo from her school days through relationship with muralist Diego Rivera and her own success as a painter.

The Ramble:

In the 1920s, a young Frida is a free-spirited student.  Close with her family, and especially so with her father, Frida boldly proclaims she will never marry.  Posing for her sister’s wedding photos in a men’s suit, it’s clear from the start this is a woman determined to live on her own terms.

Tragically, Frida’s schooling is cut short when a streetcar accident leaves her temporarily paralyzed and in chronic pain for the rest of her life.  Though she is eventually able to walk again, Frida’s time confined to her bed changes the path of her life–the only thing she is able to do all day is paint self-portraits.

a woman lies on her back in bed while painting a self-portrait

With medical bills piling up, Frida is determined to contribute to the household.  In a fateful move, she demands acclaimed muralist Diego Rivera critique her work and tell her if it’s good enough to make a living.  Impressed with her painting, Rivera quickly takes her under his wing and brings her into the Communist party crowd.  And I mean party in multiple senses of the word.

Both Frida and Diego drink a LOT.  While Diego gets angry and argumentative at parties, Frida opts for flirting with ladies in slinky dresses.  Even as Diego agrees he and Frida will be friends only, the two begin a sexual relationship.  Despite neither believing in marriage, it’s not long before the two have said their vows (and almost everyone in their circle places a bet on how long their wedded bliss will last).

a woman drinks alcohol straight from the bottle as another woman looks at her

Not long, is the answer.  Frida is furious when she learns Diego’s ex lives in the apartment above theirs while she finds a place of her own.  After an angry confrontation, Frida ends up with a new friend who teaches her to make the mole Diego loves.

Though Diego sleeps around, he promises loyalty to Frida if not fidelity.  The two get into SO MANY fights that often end with broken kitchenware, but they always make up.

Meanwhile, Diego faces critique from members of his own party for the government-sponsored murals he paints.  Diego argues his murals spread a socialist message for the people, though other Communists believe painting for the government makes him complicit in their policies.

With an unfinished mural on the wall behind them, a woman holding a bottle of alchohol sits next to a man covered in paint

Tired of this fight, Diego accepts an invitation to New York for an exhibition of his work.  Frida travels with him as she learned from Diego’s ex to never leave him to his own devices.  However, Frida instantly hates the idolization of wealth and ambition she encounters in the States, and the false smiles on every face.  Diego, on the other hand, loves the praise, admiration, and number of women always on his arm.  When Diego pushes things too far by including Lenin in a commissioned mural, the couple finally returns home to Mexico.

two women husk corn at a table, while a monkey sits beside them, and two children in the background play with a dog

Frida’s spirits lift, but Diego falls into a deep depression.  When he has an affair with Frida’s sister, who has recently left her abusive husband, Frida is finally sick of this shit and moves away.  She once again drinks A LOT, both alone and at parties.

That is, until Diego, who has agreed to host the exiled Trotsky, asks for her help in welcoming him to the country.  This plan works a little too well when Frida begins a relationship with Trotsky.

Eventually, Frida and Diego make up (IDK if this counts as a spoiler?), though her mobility and overall health decline.  Bedridden when she finally has an exhibition in her own country, Frida is determined to be at the opening.  What’s an artist to do?

The Rating:

4.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I just love Frida.  Truly, has a more fascinating human ever existed?  Salma Hayek captures her energy, intelligence, and charisma here.  The film blends some surreal elements with life in a way that feels very Frida, and frequently weaves her paintings into the story.  Since her paintings are so personal, placing her work in the context of her life gives us a greater understanding of the pain behind them.

The film doesn’t shy away from Frida’s chronic pain, bisexuality, or infamously turbulent relationship with Diego.  I enjoy that other characters sometimes directly ask why Frida stays married to Diego in spite of everything, and the non-judgmental approach the film takes in response.  Whether we as a contemporary audience understand or accept her reasons, as a human of flaws and contradictions, they are her own.

I will say the one thing I do really like about this film’s portrayal of Diego is his encouragement of Frida’s art.  She constantly dismisses her own talent, but Diego frequently tells her and others what a skilled painter she is.

I’m obsessed with this film and its subject, even as it proves that behind every great woman is a dirtbag man.

Would my blog wife paint a beautiful portrait of this one or throw a plate at its head?  Read her review here to find out!

two shirtless men sleep side by side with arms around each other
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

I Am Michael, or: To Be Gay or Not to Be

What sounds like a more interesting film:  one in which a legendary Chilean poet evades the law and narrowly escapes the cops or one about a man who moves to Canada and leans into Christian fundamentalism?  Subjectivity aside, the latter also features Zachary Quinto’s excellent eyebrow acting and the approach of a Lifetime movie to its subject matter.  And honestly, a film earns a lot of credit from me when it avoids heavy-handed narration.

The Film:

I Am Michael

The Premise:

The story of a gay activist who ultimately rejects his sexuality in favor of Christianity.

The Ramble:

“If you’re a moral person, you’ll choose to be straight.”  Not exactly the opener you’d expect for a film about a gay activist.  Except this activist is Michael Glatze, a man who edited a gay magazine in San Francisco before renouncing his sexuality in favor of Christianity.  That’s a lot to process, no?  Let’s back up a few years.

Before coming out as straight, Michael (played by James Franco) was in a serious relationship with love of my life Spock Zachary Quinto Bennett.  Michael is very much part of the gay community:  attending all-night raves, mourning traumatic events including the murder of Matthew Shepard.

Three men cheer amidst a larger group of people at a club. The men are wearing glow in the dark necklaces and bracelets as accessories.

When Bennett gets a job in Halifax, Michael’s life changes dramatically.  Instead of dedicating his time to the magazine, he gives talks to local schools, writes a lot of blog content, and eventually begins working in a soul-crushing office job.

After a year passes, Michael doesn’t feel any better adjusted to his new life.  When he fights with Bennett, Michael goes off in search of dudes, and picks up a cute young guy named Tyler.  Michael and Bennett begin an open relationship with Tyler, eventually traveling across the country with him to complete a documentary.

Two men walk through a meadow of white wildflowers. The man in front holds a flower and wears a backwards red baseball cap, blue t-shirt and jeans. The man behind him has blond hair, and wears a red t-shirt and jeans.

While filming the documentary about queer youth in the U.S., the three encounter a gay student at Liberty University (I’m sorry, but gross gross gross gross gross; I’m so creeped out by Liberty).  Though he identifies as gay, the student embraces his Christian identity and begins praying with his troubled friend.

Michael begins to wonder if he can have it all, identifying as both a gay man and a Christian.  However, he opts for living quietly with his doubts, going to church and reading the Bible in secret.

A group of people meditate on rugs in a large room with wooden floors and walls. They sit with crossed legs and eyes closed, and a man in a blue tank top and black shorts is the most prominent.

Meanwhile, Michael becomes increasingly preoccupied with his mortality and fears above all that the afterlife is just nothingness.  After a panic attack, he becomes convinced he has the heart condition that killed his father.

When he insists there’s a lot of love in the Bible, Michael earns some eyebrow raises from Bennett and Tyler.  He explores the Mormon church and Buddhism, drawn to their clear visions of the afterlife and potential to solve his so-called homosexual problem.  After moving out, he claims he is no longer gay.

What’s up with that?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

There’s something about this film that stays with me.  It may not be brilliant, but Zachary Quinto is great as ever and even James Franco gives a decent performance.  Possibly because he plays a character who’s a bit of an asshole?

It makes me sad that Michael broke Bennett’s heart, and it’s disturbing to think about the number of people who still have to lie about who they are in order to have the job and life they want.  To be clear:  I do not sympathize with people who claim they’re persecuted for their Christian beliefs in predominantly Christian nations.  It’s also troubling how Michael buys into the false dichotomy of being part of gay culture or living as the squarest straight dude alive.  I like to think we’re getting better at recognizing the many different ways to identify as LGBTQ, but clearly we still have a long way to go.

Narratively, I wish we’d spent a little more time on the impact of Michael’s actions on Bennett and the gay community as a whole.  I don’t really care if someone’s sexual orientation changes (though obv the idea that you can choose this is problematic AF), but the really shitty thing Michael did was perpetuate a horrible culture that tells young people their sexuality is a sin to be corrected.  I also feel we could use some more insight into Michael’s interiority while recognizing that I don’t ever want to know what’s really going on inside this guy’s head.

The only thing certain is that blonde James Franco is the douchiest James Franco.

Would my blog wife accept this one as it is or ditch it faster than a blonde James Franco?  Read her review here to find out!

Two men sit across from each other at a table in the visiting room of a prison. One man wears glasses, a blue sweater, and jeans; the other is in an orange prison jumpsuit.
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

True Story, or: Like Mike

Biopic/based on a true story month continues, along with the unofficial theme of dirtbag men doing dirtbag things.  Bonus(?):  one of the stars of this film is a dirtbag both onscreen and IRL.

The Film:

True Story

The Premise:

Disgraced journalist Mike Finkel explores an unusual murder case involving a man who claims to be Mike Finkel.

The Ramble:

Mike Finkel, renowned New York Times journalist, is eager to see his latest piece published.  The story highlights the abuse of modern-day slaves in regions of Africa.  When Mike merges the stories of 5 different young men into a fictional amalgamation, it turns out his eagerness is misplaced.  Caught out for his fabrications, Finkel is fired and unlikely to find work as a journalist ever again.

Man in a gray hoodie is in profile while talking on a cell phone. Behind him, a wood-paneled wall holds 7 framed New York Times magazine covers.

Returning in defeat to Montana and his archivist(!) wife Jill, Mike seemingly resigns himself to a quiet life in the remote but beautiful mountains.  There, he learns of a rather bizarre story he’s unknowingly connected to.

A woman with shoulder-length brown hair sits on a living room couch with a brown glazed mug. She is wearing a baggy cream-colored wool sweater.

A man named Christian Longo has been arrested in Mexico for the murder of his wife and young children by drowning.  The twist?  He has been claiming to be Mike Finkel of the New York Times.

Intrigued, Mike begins corresponding with Christian, ultimately traveling to Oregon to meet the identity thief.  Christian has long admired Mike’s work and feels he knows the journalist through his writing.  Though he protests his innocence, Christian is seriously contemplating a guilty plea as he believes no one cares enough to uncover the real truth.  Challenge accepted.  Mike decides to investigate Christian’s case for himself and cover the story as his big comeback.

As he works on the story, Mike becomes increasingly convinced that Christian is innocent and the two develop an understanding.  Christian refuses to tell the full truth as he claims to be protecting someone.  However, Christian is also weird AF and makes super creepy phone calls to Jill.

A man with brown hair and a goatee sits in a gray suit, testifying in a courtroom. A man with gray hair and glasses wearing judge robes is frowning in the background.

When the trial begins, Christian reveals financial troubles that caused problems in his marriage, and ultimately pleads guilty to 2 of the 4 murder charges.  What does the guilty plea mean?

The Rating:

2.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

To recap:  slightly scummy dude wants to believe much scummier dude is telling the truth despite statistics and evidence suggesting the contrary.

This story doesn’t come across as particularly remarkable even with the unique relationship between its subjects.  I will give credit to this for avoiding a sensational retelling, but everything comes across like a TV movie with the pretty ordinary plot and lack of interesting roles here.  For fuck’s sake, give Felicity Jones something to do!

I don’t get how the Mike Finkel in this story is a journalist; all he does here is make up stories and naively believe a murderer who enjoys his writing.  Like I get that the criminal justice system is fucked and frequently wrong, but a horrifyingly high number of women are murdered by their partners.  All you have to do is look up the stats, dude.

However, the main problem for me is the lack of depth to Mike and Christian’s relationship.  The film attempts to convey a connection between the two, but it doesn’t seem to be especially interesting.  Though the two aren’t really friends, the film does intentionally tell us they are still in touch yet doesn’t do enough to convey why.  And after the creepy phone calls to Jill, Mike just looks more like a scumbag for maintaining their weird relationship.

Maybe the book is better?

Would my blog wife write the book on this one or sentence it to life without parole?  Read her review here to find out!

A man gestures to his left as the woman next to him smiles and links arms with him
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Polka King, or: Dirtbag Men of the ’90s

Biopic month continues, now featuring the subtheme of dirtbag men!  This week’s dirtbag is also a legend of the music scene–specifically, the polka scene.

The Film:

The Polka King

The Premise:

The true story of Jan Lewan, the self-proclaimed polka king of Pennsylvania who, among other things, ran a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme.

The Ramble:

As we begin, Jan Lewan, seems to be a fairly successful manager and lead singer of a small polka band.  In addition to the polka band, Jan sells Polish merchandise, owns a pizza place, and sells his own brand of vodka.  Nonetheless, Jan is barely making ends meet, a fact his mother-in-law, Barb, never lets him forget.

a woman with curly hair and large glasses sits in a kitchen and looks disapprovingly

Ambitious and determined to live out his own American dream, Jan wants to build a life where he can live comfortably with his wife Marla and son David.  Yet the polka band Jan has worked so hard to put together is in danger of falling apart as bff Micky Pizzazz, earning almost nothing from the venture, threatens to quit.

A Polka band performs beneath a sign that reads "St. Stan's Polka Party." The band is led by a man in a red 1970s style suit, and includes many people playing instruments, a man dressed as a chicken, and a woman dressed as a squirrel.

When elderly fans of the band want to invest in Jan’s business ventures, he eagerly jumps on the opportunity, despite not being an investor or having a registered investment company.  Though Jan promises an outrageous return on investment, he’s not worried–the cash infusion has solved his short-term problems and kept the band together.

It doesn’t take long for the FBI to discover Jan’s amateurish scheme and warn him to return the money.  Jan agrees to this, but his fans still insist on investing large sums with his business.  What’s a guy to do…surely it would be rude to turn them down?

As Jan rakes in more and more cash, he also spends wildly.  Organizing a European trip, Jan promises an audience with the pope to all on the tour.  Somehow he manages to pull this off, though Micky is extremely agitated with Jan’s freewheeling style.

two men walk alongside a heavily graffiti-ed wall on an Italian street

Five years pass, and Jan’s polka band has earned him a Grammy nomination.  Meanwhile, Marla, tired of living in Jan’s shadow, decides to recapture her beauty pageant days by competing for the title of Mrs. Pennsylvania.  Against the odds, Marla wins…though begins to receive some strange calls about the nature of her victory.  Could Jan perhaps have something to do with this?

a woman in an evening dress smiles onstage alongside several other smiling women

As investors hear about the scandal surrounding the pageant, they begin pulling their money from Jan’s company.  However, he insists they’ll get an even better return if they wait just a little while longer.

Suddenly, while on tour with the polka band, the van crashes and David ends up on life support.

Jan worries this is a sign God is punishing him, and prays for the punishment to fall on his shoulders instead of his son’s.  What will happen when Jan’s schemes finally catch up with him?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Eh, this is a reasonably interesting story, but I’m not sure it merits its own movie.  The story with the pope is apparently true, which is quite remarkable.  But the pacing of this movie is odd, and a traumatic event like David’s near-death experience is just sort of an aside.  Interestingly, the same thing happened with Vince’s daughter in The Dirt.  Coincidence?

Jan comes across as charming and charismatic, and it’s easy to see why people would foolishly trust him with their money.  However, his portrayal in this film implies he just naively believes this sort of opportunism is part of being an American and lacks the empathy and foresight to see the impact on his victims.  I have trouble believing there was no malice or that a lack of awareness makes his schemes any less awful.  Many people do manage to forgive him, but that strikes me as the mark of a successful con man.

There’s some fun here, and the performances are great, but it isn’t enough to make this film or story stand out.  Breaking news:  the men of polka can also be dirtbag con artists.  What a shocker.

Would my blog wife join in the polka action or send it to jail for its shady business practices?  Find out by reading her review here!

four members of a band in stage costumes lean together in private conversation
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Dirt(bag Men of ’80s Rock)

We often escape from reality on the Blog Collab with terrible horror, bad sci-fi, and cheesy rom-coms. Not so this month, which brings us biopics and true stories grounded wholly in reality. Well…as real as the life of a rock star can be.

The Film:

The Dirt

The Premise:

The rise and fall (and rise?) of Mötley Crüe is recounted as the rock band contends with drug use, banging each other’s girlfriends, and the most rock ‘n roll problem of all: artistic differences.

The Ramble:

Our narrator sets the tone accurately here by claiming the ’80s are the worst decade of all time: stirring up shallow outrage, using glib humor rather irritatingly, and managing to come off with a smug superiority. Oh, you wanted a glowing review reaffirming that rock lives forever? Sorry to break it to you, but nostalgia’s dead.

a man in a government office holds his ID card as it burns

Lucky for us, we’re going to get insightful narration from all 4 major members of the band. Nikki Sixx (aka Lord Byron from the biopic Mary Shelley–this actor definitely has a type), founder of the band, grows up constantly fighting with a mother who blames him for driving his father away. At a fairly young age, Nikki decides he’s had enough of this situation and slices his arm open in rage, making accusations against his mother to guarantee he’ll be taken into foster care.

Tommy Lee, in contrast, has supportive parents who just sort of shrug when he raids his sister’s wardrobe. A mega fan of rock music, Tommy meets Nikki after a show that erupts in a massive fight. With his trusty drumsticks at the ready, Tommy convinces Nikki to make him the drummer in a new band just getting started.

a young man wearing colorful clothes reads in front of a wall of late 1970s posters

Enter Mick Mars, advertising himself in the papers as a rude, aggressive guitarist. A few years older than his band mates and suffering from a degenerative bone disorder, Mick takes no shit from the kiddos in the band.

As the band is still missing a lead singer, Tommy suggests his old high school buddy Vince Neil. Nikki and Mick aren’t particularly thrilled with his vibe, but since our dude is charismatic AF, they decide to give him a chance.

three young men in punk clothing look into the distance among people at an outdoor party

After throwing around a few truly terrible band names, the group quickly decides on the name Mötley Crüe. In the spirit of rock ‘n roll, a massive fight between the band and audience erupts at their first gig. However, their unrestrained music and attitude gains them a loyal following, and it’s not long before they are signed with a record label and have their own manager.

Their career gets an additional boost when the band goes on tour with Ozzy, who I learned was once blonde and did things like lick his own piss off the ground (the blonde thing surprised me more, TBH).

Am I forgetting something? Oh, right–the massive amount of partying, drugs, and sleeping around that happens throughout. Everyone seems to be sleeping with everyone else’s girlfriend, but the band is typically too fucked up to give a shit.

a man in all-black looks out confrontationally while the members of a metal band look on

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the band’s carefree days are numbered. When Vince causes an accident while driving under the influence, passenger and fellow rocker Razzle dies, while the passengers of the other car are seriously injured. After serving just 19 days in prison(!????!?!?!?), Vince is released on the condition he stay sober. When everyone around you is shooting up heroin and chugging hard liquor, this is a rather challenging task.

Meanwhile, Tommy is marrying actress Heather Locklear. Nikki, serving as best man, arrives at the wedding high out of his mind. He later overdoses and is reported dead. After immediately shooting up a bunch of heroin (again), Nikki realizes he needs to get sober. However, sober Nikki = perfectionist asshole Nikki, and a falling out means Vince is leaving the band.

Soon after, Vince is hit with the devastating news that his young daughter has cancer. The band is dropped by the label, seeming to end the Crüe’s run. Can anything get the band back together?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Points earned for over-the-top ’80s rock fashions; points detracted for toxic masculinity.

As a viewer, I was frequently confused about the purpose of this film. It seems to approach the culture of ’80s rock excess somewhat wryly, yet there are so many goddamn scenes of sex, drug abuse, and fights that it also buys into the lifestyle. There are only so many times you can flash tits onscreen and claim it’s part of the ambiance. And there’s a scene where Vince basically uses The Secret to get a blowjob, which just makes him look like an absolute douche.

I have admittedly never coveted the rock star lifestyle, but I would hope with a music biopic I would learn something about the band that’s interesting or informs my understanding of the music. Wow–Mötley Crüe really leaned into their rock star image Color me surprised. While I did find the story of Vince’s daughter upsetting, overall this film feels like a very surface-level examination of the band rather than offering much to reflect on.

There’s also so much unnecessary narration and breaking of the 4th wall that the film frequently feels like an unholy union of Scrubs and The Office. We get it: talking directly to the camera means you’re aware of the absurdity of your own experiences. So impressive.

All of this being said, our 4 leads are great. Their distinct personalities come across even when the characters all have the same haircut. And the charisma, the sense of fun, and the dedication to rock are very much there in the approach to the roles. I just have very little patience for watching so many men run around as giant man babies for most (if not all) of their lives.

Would my blog wife tie the knot without a prenup or fire this one before it can quit? Read her review here to find out!