Stanley uses intriguing bait & switch structure this time
15 years ago David Stanley was making Vivid features at a breakneck pace, all with odd wrinkles and techniques. "Good Things" has him experimenting with an unusual structure that I admired, even though the total package was less than successful.
He addresses the issue of Contract Stars that was Vivid's m.o. back then, with as many as 10 top actresses on the payroll at a time ranging from Kobe Tai to Taylor Hayes. This project top-lines lovely Sunrise Adams, but David gives her no dialog, a peripheral character, but the requisite plenty of sex footage.
Indeed, the actual star of the show is Ava Vincent, not under contract and one of the best actresses of her era. She portrays an unhappy divorcée, still angry with her ex Jack (Randy Spears, Stanley's favorite actor) who cheated on her with Sunset and married the girl. Back story is revealed in flashbacks as well as VHS tapes that Ava watches, sometimes porn and sometimes home movies of her and Jack's past.
Running a trim 79 minutes, it was not till near the end that I realized that Stanley had pulled a confidence trick. Despite her maximum amount of dialog and importance to the story, as well as her hundreds of hardcore performances before "Good Things" was shot, Ava turns out to have a NonSex Role here. She conveniently avoids any sex scenes even when the story would indicate one is approaching. Instead, we get Sunset humping away for her Vivid fans, as well as a strong VHS performance by Briana Banks as a dominatrix (giving it to a nearly unrecognizable -with shaved head - Bobby Vitale) and scene stealing Lezley Zen cast improbably as Ava's sister and seemingly a prostitute.
David manages to get the viewer strongly invested in Ava's point-of-view, especially since her acting is so good, while conversely star Sunset Adams is left a complete blank. This aspect of Vivid productions of the period has become quite noticeable as I currently survey their movies from 15 to 20 years ago, in which the marquee players like Sunset, Janine or Mercedez are frequently overshadowed (acting-wise) by the hard- working, lesser-known supporting femmes.
Cryptic elements Stanley cannot resist injecting into the show include a brief TV clip of his imaginary TV talk show "Big Baloney Sandwich", showing the host in his gorilla suit giving a guest a slapstick pie in the face. Also, for Sunset's first sex scene with Spears, it ends arbitrarily with Randy depositing his money shot on her cute footsies, a fetish both Stanley and Spears like to indulge as often as possible on screen (and likely off too).
Film's title refers to nasty Ava (she is very mean to neighbor Eric Masterson, which leads to a disconcerting dark segment that David uses as a wake-up call to smug viewers) deciding to turn over a new leaf and act nice to everyone. Unfortunately, even this subplot doesn't really pay off with any real life lesson learned, en route to a "6 Months later" coda scene (replaying the show's opening scene but with a new neighbor instead of Eric) that has Stanley thumbing his nose at the viewer, with Ava's final line "What the f*ck are you looking at?". It's directed at the neighbor, indicating Ava's reversion to nasty form, but is clearly really aimed at us poor slobs out there in Porn Video Land.
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