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!

Advertisements
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Starry Eyes, or: Those Satanists Are Ruining Hollywood

I’m not going to apologize for this review because I CANNOT stop apologizing to absolutely everyone at my new job, and I’m driving myself nuts. Still, I’m somewhat embarrassed about the quality of this post. Horror Month is kicking off not with a bang, but with a whimper. On the bright side, it could be worse.

I promise you Christa’s review is full of snark but lighter on the self-deprecation. Read her post here!

The Film:

Starry Eyes

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

A struggling actress gets an offer that seems too good to be true…because it’s an offer from Hollywood Satanists.

The Uncondensed Version:

Our story is your basic struggling actress plot but with a horror twist. Sarah is a waitress who works for what is essentially the Hooters of tater tots. She’s a fairly typical character except she isn’t very nice to herself, and does this rather painful-looking hair yanking thing whenever she messes something up.

It doesn’t help that her friends are kind of shitty, including a frenemy who rubs it in Sarah’s face when she gets a part they both auditioned for as well as that one creepy dude friend. The acting career isn’t really taking off, so Sarah jumps at the opportunity to star in the rather sketchy The Silver Scream. She’s desperate, so she doesn’t even care that the people she’s auditioning for are super judgmental and detached, telling her directly that she has to impress them or she’ll be forgotten like thousands of other girls. After presumably fucking up this audition, Sarah goes into the bathroom and does her hair-pulling routine.

a woman in a public bathroom stall holds her head in her hands
KEEP IT TOGETHER, SARAH.

Oddly, she is called back to the audition and asked to repeat the hair-pulling performance. Instead of being creeped out and getting the fuck out like a normal person, Sarah obliges. Even though she thinks the audition went horribly, she gets a call back.

The second audition is even weirder, and she has to get naked in a dark room while a camera takes her picture with a blinding flash. RUN, SARAH.

After all of this, Sarah gets a meeting with the producer who is, of course, a creepy old man. He goes on about people worshipping the god of debauchery and all of the weirdos in Hollywood before being a complete perv. Sarah hesitates to cross that line, but eventually returns as the lure of stardom is too great. During this second meeting, it becomes clear the producer is a Satanist or at least really into summoning demons and occult worship.  Maybe I’m being unfair because I’m not really sure what a Satanist looks like or what a Satanist believes.

a man sitting in a law office holds his hands out while smiling creepily
GROSS.

Shortly after, Sarah’s friends become concerned by her sudden sleazy/violent behavior. Things rapidly go from bad to worse, and we get our first truly disgusting scene of the film that involves pulling her own fingernails out, bleeding from everyfuckingwhere, and throwing up maggots. Honestly the fingernail part was the vilest bit of this film to me. If you can watch it without wincing, more power to you.

I suppose I shouldn’t give every last detail away, so let’s just say there’s a lot of bloody murder at the end. A LOT.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Eh…there was nothing in particular to dislike about this film, but I also didn’t get really into it. It’s nice that this was a horror story with a purpose, but I felt it was a bit lacking in oomph.

About halfway through, I wondered where all the blood and guts were and why no one had died yet. Admittedly it got pretty disgusting, but I had to wait a damn long time (those fingernails, man. Haunting my dreams tonight).

Idk, guys, have I just lost any semblance of an attention span?

Check out the brilliance that is Christa’s review here!