A backwoods Alabama boy named Peejoe -short for Peter Joseph- gets a quick education in grown-up matters like freedom in 1965. The catalyst is an unlikely source - his glamorous, eccentric Aunt Lucille, who escapes from her abusive husband and takes off for Hollywood to pursue her dreams of TV stardom. Written by
The trouble with most Melanie Griffith vehicles-and for some reason I'm excruciatingly aware of the number of them I've seen- is that you're only seeing one character, ever, and not a very good or memorable one at that. Ms. Griffith should be at the very center of a firestorm of debate on what's wrong with Hollywood, and the principal lesson we can learn from movies like this one is that Hollywood is lazy. Melanie Griffith is not only not a very good actress, she is so abominably bad and mind-numbingly predictable in her infantile reactions and sex-kitten phrasings that she should never have been seen aside from her appearances in Body Double and Something Wild, in which the characters she played were simply tailored to fit her deficient persona. For anyone who still disagrees, let me put it this way. If you were to remove the mannerisms, vocalizations, and elements of style that Ms. Griffith has simply lifted from Judy Holliday and Marilyn Monroe, you would not have enough actor left to fill the shoes of a crowd-scene extra. Yet the Hollywood system somehow works to keep this Cleopatra's barge afloat, long after it should have run aground. But, since she's who she is, however unfortunate that may be for all of us, we'll go on seeing her again and again, silicon-blown lips and breasts and, oh, what's the use? This movie is really parts of two movies that never really come together, and that wouldn't really be able to stand up by themselves either. We have a typical Hollywood construct, 60's racist Alabama, intercut with a retail clerk's dream of ascendance to stardom: kill your abusive husband, steal a car, by a hat for the hatbox, (paste classical reference here) sweet-talk a cop out of holding you in jail--Banderas probably knows so little about police procedure in this country that he actually thought the hatbox in a stolen vehicle would not be checked-- win big in Las Vegas, audition for Bewitched, and become a star. Maybe we're supposed to remember here that Liz Montgomery also played Lizzie Borden in a TV movie several years after Bewitched tanked and she was renovating her image as a Now woman. Regardless, the classification of this film as "comedy-drama" should have been the tip-off that whenever Ms Griffith found herself in trouble, the baby-doll would pop out, coo sickeningly, and her character would survive for yet another stunning costume change. Now, the "serious" side of this movie flounders like the fully dressed blacks diving into the pool--we're supposed to think here of baptism, even before we see the image of the little boy floating in the crucifixion pose--and we are also supposed to swallow yet another screenwriter's slam-dunk of a terribly complex and many-sided situation, that of racial injustices of sixties Alabama. I remember sitting in an editing room, telling my working partner I'd just come back from Alabama, where my father is buried. "F--- Alabama!" she said. She was from New York, and movies like this were her entire experience of the south. So, here we are, in the middle of this dreadful hash: a dream of becoming a star, which, oddly enough, is played by an actor who has expressed in interviews this same desire, over and over again: to be a star, even tho she is incapable of acting. Then we have the Hollywood construct of a mythical, deeply stereotyped world: racist South, lustful cop, get-rich Las Vegas, and star-studded Hollywood. And to top it all off, we have A. Banderas, who, come to think of it, may actually be the closest thing to a male counterpart to Melanie Griffith you're liable to find. He's fulfilling his dream of coming to America, becoming a star in something other than Almodovar films (the worst of which was much better than this) and finally, directing. Every boy's Hollywood dream. Like Griffith, he seems to think that talent or ability should have nothing to do with it. And if this movie had been anything like the hit it was billed as in the trailers, He would have been right. But, somehow, over and over again, that self-referencing Hollywood myth simply breaks down, over and over again. What we have, then, is shoddy "stars" that no one really wants to see, like Melanie Griffith, shoddy directing, that we could live without, like Banderas,' and shoddy films, that no one really wanted to see, playing three times a day on Bravo, like this one. Do yourself a favor, the next time this one's on: Change the channel.
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