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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.89%
Worth A Look: 15.56%
Pretty Bad: 20%
Total Crap: 4.44%

4 reviews, 21 user ratings

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Banger Sisters, The
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by Collin Souter

"Absolutely Not-So Fabulous"
3 stars

I thought I knew what to expect from “The Banger Sisters” when I walked into the theater. I had seen the ad dozens of times already and it seemed as though it had been the kind of movie that had been made a dozen times before. You know, party girl invades home of old uptight friend and changes everything, that whole thing. I sort of dubbed it “Almost Famous 2” or “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.” Not a whole lot of originality here, but maybe the charm of the leading ladies (Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon) would carry it. But then, something caught me off guard. There exists another character and another sub-plot in “The Banger Sisters” that the ads never mentioned. And I’m sure had they stuck with this hidden storyline, the movie would have been much better.

“The Banger Sisters” doesn’t start off with the troubled-yet-fun loving ex-groupie Suzette (Hawn) showing up unexpectedly on uptight suburbanite Lavinia’s (Sarandon) front door after 20 years of being apart. That comes much later. The movie starts off with Suzette driving to Phoenix on her way to see Lavinia. While panhandling for gas money in a middle-of-nowhere gas station, she picks up Harry (Geoffrey Rush), an eccentric obsessive-compulsive would-be screenwriter who travels with an old typewriter and a gun. “I have one bullet and I’m going to use it to shoot my father,” he says. The two get a hotel room where Rush spends most of the movie.

A relationship develops between the two that I found worthy of its own movie. Two failures in life: One who blames his father for all his mistakes and the other one who can only use a long list of rock stars she has slept with as a badge for her success in life. Too downbeat for Hollywood? Not the way Hawn and Rush play it. This could have easily been a sad, hilarious and beautiful movie about two lost souls who find each other at the peak of middle age. Maybe the sort of movie Billy Wilder would have made.

Instead, “The Banger Sisters” steps into familiar shoes, as expected. Suzette drives out to Lavinia’s house. She learns that Lavinia has a lawyer husband and two teenage daughters, Ginger (Eva Amurri) and Hannah (Erika Christiansen), who just graduated high school. Suzette can’t bring herself to get out of the car and show up at Lavinia’s doorstep unannounced. But that same night, Hannah’s prom night, Suzette runs into Hannah in the same hotel. She had dropped a hit of acid. Suzette talks her down and takes her back home, where of course Suzette has her first encounter in 20 years with Lavinia.

Eventually, Suzette makes her presence known to the rest of Lavinia’s family. The daughters want to know more about their mother’s past as a wild child, a past that has long since escaped Lavinia’s consciousness. Raymond, Lavinia’s husband who completely missed out on the ‘60s, seems utterly clueless about his wife’s past. The truth all comes out when all five characters have dinner together. Here, Lavinia liberates herself by throwing meat at her husband.
Right from the point of Suzette and Lavinia’s first encounter, the screenplay comes to a screeching halt. One never gets the feeling that Suzette and Lavinia had a past together. The dialogue comes off as awkward, unmotivated and over-written. Lavinia throwing meat at her husband for not knowing anything about Jim Morrison comes out of left field and makes Lavinia more unlikable than her husband, who does not come off as a bad guy. It just serves the scene’s purposes to make him one in that moment.

The daughters, Ginger and Hannah, have their problems as well. Hannah has to speak at her graduation, but has no idea what to say. Every line she thinks to say sounds phony. Ginger, a hyperactive high school sophomore, can’t seem to pass a driver’s test without blowing a red light. Hannah’s character seems right for the story. As a high school graduate, she seems petrified of turning out like her uptight parents. Suzette shows her that a person’s past says more about them than their present. The character of Ginger, however, belongs in a sitcom.

“The Banger Sisters” does go back and forth between the Harry plot and the Lavinia plot. Lavinia changes her look and attitude and it is fun to see Hawn and Sarandon working their magic together even if the situations don’t feel utterly believable. Hawn especially reminds us why she has always been a better dramatic actress than a comedienne. Sarandon, of whom I’ve always been a fan in spite of “Stepmom,” does the best she can with the material, but her character has clearly been given the weakest of treatments in the script. Still, I wouldn’t mind seeing these two work together again on a better movie. Rush plays off Hawn beautifully and I believed his character transitions the most. Christiansen does fine, even if this is the second film in which her character either takes hard drugs (“Traffic”) or has sex in a pool (“Swimfan”).

Clocking in at 94 minutes, “The Banger Sisters” sure ends itself in a hurry. Everything gets quickly wrapped into a nice little bow and not very convincingly. It wouldn’t have killed first time writer-director Bob Dolman to stretch the screenplay out a bit and further explore his characters. Perhaps there exists better footage on the cutting room floor that will turn up on the DVD.

There does seem to be one or two good movies lurking somewhere in “The Banger Sisters,” but it doesn’t quite know which story works best for it. Sure, all these characters can co-exist, but the Harry character only seems to be a means to a convenient ending for Suzette. Something seems to be missing from all of these characters. For instance, does Suzette enjoy today’s music, or does she limit her taste to the past? At what point did Lavinia lose sight of her true self? What we have in “The Banger Sisters” is half of a good movie struggling to fit into half of a mediocre one. How does that song go? You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes…

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originally posted: 09/23/02 14:48:50
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User Comments

7/12/09 art A TIME KILLER! 3 stars
6/18/09 the dork knight Goldie Hawn pwns. 4 stars
8/18/05 ES seriously this wasn't a porno? huh, well then I guess it sucked 1 stars
12/30/04 Ariadne Christina Renee Gladstone I'm presently shitting myself on admitting that I liked a Susan Sirhandon movie! 4 stars
12/02/04 lucas awesome 5 stars
5/25/04 Jade I loved this movie! It was awesome, it's a good movie to watch with your mom.hilarious film 5 stars
5/07/04 Ross Two old cows, not funny, not interesting. I cringed at sarran's bottom 1 stars
10/02/03 Mopsa Quite funny, but remains average 3 stars
8/31/03 Ashleigh Bevier This movie was great! 5 stars
5/20/03 your worse goddamn nightmare I saw this with a chick who got her hootch pierced! Flick gets points for that! 4 stars
4/17/03 Andrew Carden Goldie Hawn Is Fantastic, Sarandon Is Wasted...Film Is Average. 3 stars
4/17/03 Shadaan Felfeli or "What a good cast can do for a substandard film." 3 stars
4/08/03 Mystique I just say Geoffrey Rush ! :-) 4 stars
3/21/03 soelen i liked it, Goldie Hawn is still fucking hot,even though she is old. great chick flick 5 stars
2/15/03 Ashley Corpening Good, but I hoped Hannah really would fart at graduation. 4 stars
12/04/02 Ariadne Christina Renee Gladstone I'm presently shitting myself on having to admit I liked a Susan Sirhandon movie. 4 stars
11/07/02 The Quirkfetch Kid But better certainly doesn't deserve them! 2 stars
9/28/02 Suzz hawn and sarandon deserve better 3 stars
9/24/02 poetchuck Entertaining, romp 4 stars
9/18/02 Mortis Too many close ups,its like VH1 meets a Highway to Heaven episode. 2 stars
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  20-Sep-2002 (R)



Directed by
  Bob Dolman

Written by
  Bob Dolman

  Susan Sarandon
  Goldie Hawn
  Geoffrey Rush
  Eva Amurri
  Erika Christensen
  Matthew Carey

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