by John Linton Roberson
I'm only bothering to review this because, till this vomitous, wretched, but bizarrely funny piece of codswollop, CALIGULA was the worst movie I'd ever seen. I'd heard how much money it lost and had a good, good chuckle. I remember the pre-hype, Verhoeven and Eszterhas waxing so very pretentiously on the, ha, the sophisticated, ha ha, no wait, sophisticated(catch your breath, John) view of sexuality and, and, oh lord, the inner power of women--AS PRESENTED in THIS MOVIE. They said this, swear to God.In short, despite how hilarious this movie was, it still stole over two hours of my life(hypocritically he claimed...) and I want to kick it in the teeth a bit.
"NOT TO BE SEEN WITH A PRIOR HERNIA!"
If Ed Wood taught us anything, it's that the worst filmmakers may believe as wholeheartedly in their work as so-called true artists and STILL produce a great steaming stinking mass of celluloid shit. I honestly believe these two believed in what they were doing. Or rather, I fear that they do. If this had been merely meant as the hackwork it is, it would be more reassuring.
One night in the video store, stuck for something we'd not seen, my fiancee and I noticed this in the "Bad" section, and feeling cruel, rented it. I wore a hole in the floor; from rolling on it laughing--mind out of gutter, please! You people...
And why oh why exactly is Hollywood unable to deal with sexuality outside the context of strippers and prostitutes? Not movies, just Hollywood. Tells you something about the amount of experience most producers have with women they don't pay.
No need to go over the plot except to say it even has a father and mother figure right out of old-time Busby Berkeley musicals, with the exception that the father says things like, "Do a good job on that stage and I won't even make you suck my dick." CHAR-ming! And it's presented almost as though it was meant to be. EWWW!!!
Telling point: This movie thinks Las Vegas has a soul.
Oh...all right, let's make fun of the plot, as it is.
What we have here, captured for eternity, are some of the worst performances in movie history, particularly Elizabeth Berkley, who, judging from her movements during the act, fantasizes herself as a washing machine. And Kyle MacLachlan, totally lost outside a David Lynch context where his woodenness and unfortunate innate corniness works. I wonder how many times since 1992 or so David Lynch has heard him begging, drunk, on his answering machine.(Note for lawyers: I'm kidding, I'm kidding.)
It follows the Ain't-Paying-Your-Dues-In-Showbiz-Hard plot, except the protagonist usually has noble artistic ambitions one can sympathize with. But no, this woman wants to be a sleazy stripper, period. There's a character who tries to encourage her on to "better things," but no. She wants to do lap dances. And why? No reason. But if you question it on her, for no apparent reason, she pulls a knife. Joe Boy apparently finds knives erotic, but then he's a senile hippie living up in Marin.(This would even be more excusable if he lived in Hollywood. No, Eszterhas is just an idiot, and not even worth having his name spelled right) After a while you get the feeling she's acting like some sort of, I dunno, crackwhore?--which she turns out to have been! Oh BWAH HAH HAH! AND THEY ACTUALLY THINK THIS WILL MAKE YOU CARE MORE ABOUT HER!
Another lovely, ludicrous bit is when after stripping, gyrating, having men come on her, and grinding against a number of high-paying crotches, quite enthusiastically, and then quits when someone dares tell her to put ice on her nipples. I guess everyone has their limits...
Then there's the obligatory scene where her best friend, who happens to be black(apparently to make her look saintly, in the filmmakers' minds; it's a very obvious and ugly bit of manipulation, as the character is there through most of the movie just to listen to Berkley rant and be supportive), is brutally and gratuitously, and VERY pruriently, raped--being disposable for the filmmakers, not being one of the blond, sexy ones...god, this film sickens me...giving this incomprehensible, idiotic, and totally unsympathetic character the chance to avenge this horrid act and become a hero in the last reel, much as the more murderous members of medieval nobility would recant on their deathbeds. She's cheap, she's sleazy, SHE'S PROUD!
This thing would have been laughed off cable in the 80s, which Verhoeven used to do(remember HBO's THE HITCHHIKER and its horrid hairstyles, Members Only jackets, and tits exactly 15 minutes into the program?). You keep wondering, how could they have put this out, spent so much money, and not known how very, VERY bad this thing is?
I almost exploded my guts laughing watching this thing. I was quite sore the next day, to be sure...no, not that way!(That would be HENRY & JUNE, quite another story)I like genuine eroticism. I see it rarely in film. And CERTAINLY not here. This movie, if there is an exact opposite of "erotic," qualifies for the title. It doesn't even work as soft-core porn. Well, to virgins locked in a box till they're 25 it might.I recommend it to screenwriting professors to show their students, as the greatest textbook example of how NOT to write a movie. I recommend it to anyone who thinks they know how bad, how VERY VERY bad a movie can be.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1247&reviewer=151
originally posted: 09/04/99 19:28:40