Blue CrushReviewed By Erik Childress
Posted 08/23/02 08:41:11
God help us all! I weep for the future when a good portion of the respected critical community in this country consider Blue Crush to be an intelligent film about young women. That’s like labeling XXX as a candidate for poet laureate. I certainly don’t pretend to understand the lifestyle of recreational or competitive surfing anymore than I do the world of underground car racing or people into foot fetishes. It may also seem hypocritical to trash a film like this considering I’ve given high praise to films in the past dealing with all kinds of debauchery depicted on men and women. But those films weren’t held up as Chicken Soup for the Teenage Adolescent. Maybe I’m handling the media’s overzealous praise too loosely, but hey, as a critic you find your wave and you paddle in.Our three heroines of female empowerment are Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth), Eden (Michelle Rodriguez) and Lena (Sanoe Lake). Anne Marie was on the top of her surf game a few years ago until, wouldn’t you know it, she fell off her board and smashed her head into a sharp piece of coral (a severe injury that apparently has left no scar on her pretty little face.) As any human being would, Anne Marie still enjoys to surf but is a little hesitant to jump again onto one of those big waves, a fear that may prevent her from giving it all in the upcoming Pipe tournament (and NO, you didn’t see that on HBO’s Hookers at the Point.)
Anne Marie’s mother left her to fend for herself and in charge of taking care of her 14-year old sister, Penny (Mika Boorem), whom she has no problem dropping off a lot late to school so she can hit the waves too. Anne Marie’s arrogant response to the high school principal regarding the frequent tardiness hardly reflects the intelligent nature of the character that so many are trumpeting. The sister’s rebellious behavior, drinking, doing drugs and hanging out with the local older surf boys who should be a little more concerned where they’re touching her, lends itself more to turning this story into Lilo & Stitch: The Irresponsible Version.
Meanwhile, Eden is determined to keep Anne Marie’s dream of the Pipe alive, pushing her into it at every turn. That is until the football team comes to town. Which team? Who knows, just a football team, at least a couple big fat linemen and Matt Tollman (Matthew Davis), the hunky QB. After she is fired from her hotel room cleaning gig, QB hires Anne Marie and her gaggle of roommates for surfing lessons and after a single day, she’s ready to shack up with him for lessons in how to put those stains back into the sheets.
The relationship that develops between Surf Queen and the QB has been the focal point of the intelligence discussion around this film. OK, so at the end of the second act, Anne Marie has the conversation with him about whether what they’ve got going is serious or if she’ll be forgotten about as just another conquest when the gridiron boys pack up and leave their vacation spot. We’ve seen this scene many times before, as have we the scene that spurns it on when Anne Marie happens to be in the bathroom at the right time when all the snooty girls come in to talk about the white trash that Number Whatever has taken out to the party. But fine, its nice to see a gal thinkin’ well after she’s pleasured the guy and ordered room service. But, forget all that, cause if this is a situation the script is interested in seriously exploring, then why do the two of them end up in each other’s arms right before the credits roll? Isn’t he STILL leaving?
But Erik, you say, isn’t this just a goofy summer movie with some incredible surfing sequences? OK, I can get into it here too. The surfing sequences barely qualify as being all that. Yes, there is some early majesty to the girls looking out at the giant waves and hearing the soundtrack crash boom all around us, but when they get in the water, it’s anything but exciting. The biggest problem is every time you are close to getting involved, we’re treated to a close-up of Bosworth riding the waves. Only it’s not Bosworth, it’s a stunt double, and its not the stunt double’s face, but a CGI rendering of Bosworth’s that makes her look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man without the facial expressions. Only Rodriguez on a jetski provides the necessary depth of field required for true adrenaline, everything else looks the same: people in the water waiting for a wave, they try to take it, wipe out and then struggle to keep themselves from drowning as the undertow spirals up from below.
Make no mistake about it, along with mountain climbing, surfing is one of those few thrill-seeker rushes that I just don’t get. I’ve never tried it (not many opportunities in Chicago), but from what I know about my own equilibrium, I have the common sense not to get on a wet, oiled down board and try to ride the perfect storm. I can’t even keep my legs together skiing and I’m sure Anne Marie knows how that goes. But here’s the rub, if you were to make a film about the competitive world of bungi jumping and the film opens with the heroine’s rope breaking on the way down, as a friend how far would you push her to get back up on the thing, knowing the danger? The film is heavy on the “get back on the horse” metaphor, but it’s still not like a fear of airplanes, getting rejected professionally (or personally) or even getting hit in the crotch on the baseball diamond. I love a good rollercoaster, but if I got into an accident, I’d certainly have pause about ever getting on THAT particular one. Then again, those are built by ENGINEERS(!) and don’t have you at the mercy of hundreds of tons of liquid that’s influenced by weather and the shift of the freakin’ planet. To see it done right, countering the perfect symmetry between excitement and macho stupidity, see Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break.
It’s possible that writers got caught up in trying to label director John Stockwell as the new voice of young women. In 2001, he helmed crazy/beautiful, a really smart drama about a troubled teenaged girl and her relationship to an intelligent Latino kid. That film had a realism about it that balanced the rebellious nature of the girl against a responsible suitor. Blue Crush doesn’t even deserve to be in the same league or on the same resume. Comparing the “responsible” surf gals with that of any intelligent human being is an insult to even the very planks of wood they ride on. (And no, that’s not another QB entendre.)
Some have even given credit to the girls for doing things that “you’re supposed to do” as Chris Rock once put it. (“Well, I’ve never been to jail.” “YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO GO TO JAIL!”) When Eden and Lena threaten to quit in protest after Anne Marie is fired, she tells them not to since they all live together and need money. That’s not honorable, it’s just good common sense. Others liked the fact that they had jobs at all. How noble! Especially when they use their maid positions to dip into the guest’s belongings. Of course, the clothes belong to some rich bitch and not a nice working class family, so I guess it’s OK.The final image of the film is a magazine cover of Anne Marie with the proud headline – “These girls lay pipe!” Now, unless the gals have found a side job in plumbing, the double entendre is thicker than the QB’s…never mind, but I’ve seen more subtlety in a Zucker/Abrahams parody. As if the final straw remained intact, at the screening I was at, four young girls no more than 10-11 years old sat in front of me. During one of the hotel clean-up scenes, a used condom gets stuck to Lena’s shoe, at which point she screams for about a half hour trying to wiggle the soiled rubber off. When it’s finally removed and displayed in all its glory, one of the girls in front of me commented, “Boy, that’s a long one.” Yes, a smart film about girls for girls. “Ghost World” has nothing on this. God help us all! I weep for the future.
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