Women in Trouble
I was all over the press material for Women in Trouble, and why wouldn't I be? Variations on cleavage of attractive actresses hasn't hurt a movie's pre-rep for me in the past, so it definitely wasn't going to now. The title's simplicity suggests noir, and while it pops up here and there, the film flips genres often, so it's hard to fit into one. (But I'd like to fit one in it! Kaboom!) It's a multi-threaded comedy with in-your-face emotion that happens to be full of women (in trouble) having mini-epiphanies while saying the raunchiest things possible. As you can imagine, it was written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez, a man (possibly in trouble).
Carla Gugino, wife of Gutierrez, plays Elektra Luxx, a pornography empress who finds out she's pregnant, through a side-relationship she has going with a musician, just before getting stuck in an elevator with angst-ridden Doris (Connie Britton). Doris has issues with her sister, Addy (Caitlin Keats), who's having an affair with the hubby (Simon Baker) of her psychiatrist, Maxine (Sarah Clarke), while Addy's daughter, Charlotte, is in session. Maxine later teams up with BFF call-girl dingbats Bambi (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and Holly Rocket (Adrienne Palicki), both of whom are hiding out after unwittingly witnessing a random act of violence. There's also a one-off darkly comedic scene involving sexual antics between a flight attendant (Marley Shelton) and a famous rock star (Josh Brolin with a goofy British accent). The events of the film all occur in a single day, so these basic plotlines progress in a much-edited fashion toward not-quite-climaxes by the end of the film. Mostly, things happen via the dialogue.
The dialogue will probably be the great divider for haters and lovers of Women in Trouble, though the film doesn't really draw emotions as strong as love or hate. Obviously the characters in such overtly sexual jobs as porn star and whore are meant to be foul-mouthed, but everyone's speech is provoked by engorged libidos. That is, except for when things get sappy and sob story tell-all, a tactic almost every character gets to showcase. Sometimes Women in Trouble feels like a good Kevin Smith movie, and other times it feels like a terrible Woody Allen movie. The scene pacing runs just as rampant as the dialogue, bouncing from self-aware broad comedy to intimate conversation. I didn't have as much of a problem with it as I would in another movie, but it was indeed clumsily set up in its entirety.
The cast are all generally likable and play their roles accordingly. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a bit at the tail end of the movie that is dumb but keen. I can't see myself genuinely enjoying this movie if I was a woman, because these are pretty terrible stereotypes to witness professionals portraying. But I guess some women do live lives like this, in the same way that some men are actually like Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor; it's all deplorable. Holly Rocket is a walking blonde joke whose dramatic monologue is spurred by her questionable love of an animal and her inability to perform oral on women because of sudden nausea. The larger character arcs are held by Elektra and Doris, where Doris is the only person in the movie that might actually exist in another independent movie. Her story is mostly free from perversion, though the dramatic side of it is nothing original. It's just un-ridiculous, and it sticks out that way.
Because the plot is fairly simple, though laid out in an impishly askew fashion, I'll fill more space by singling out some left-field choices made in Women in Trouble. I'm not being exactly negative, but don't look for glory. There's a running gag about Holly being hit by vehicles. It's worth a grin once, but then when it happens again, and nothing becomes of it, the question marks float up. There are also a couple of times when a blast of themed stills accompany something someone says. They're kind of cool and silly, but don't complement the long-shot dialogue scenes. Obviously, I wouldn't point this out in a Miike or Aronofsky flick, but I still don't know what Gutierrez is all about. This movie received scores far lower than mine across the internet, so he'd do better to worry about pleasing all those people next time. And when I say next time, I mean in the first of two already planned sequels, Elektra Luxx and Women in Ecstasy. I am completely neutral in my knowledge of their existence, but I'll probably watch them as soon as I can.
It's a simple disc for a sometimes-complicated movie. There are trailers that play after you hit "Play Movie," and then it has a "Feature Presentation" logo before the movie. Crazy, right? "Behind the Scenes with Elektra Luxx & Holly Rocket" is an in-character promo for Women in Trouble. It seemed unscripted and wasn't really worth much more than hearing Gugino say she wasn't wearing underpants. I'm a sucker. In a similar (throbbing) vein, there's a trailer for the movie that is pure titillation and has nothing to do with the movie. All the female leads are dancing around scantily clad in a pool at night. It's effective propaganda, and while I never pictured high heels and stockings underwater before, I think we have a winner.
Finally, there are a series of not-really-deleted scenes, entire takes of characters that were patients of Maxine in the movie. Brief snippets of these takes were edited in, and they're pretty good to watch. There's Lauren Katz, Xander Berkeley, Caitlin Keats, Elizabeth Berkley, and Paul Cassell, who is the most pleasing to me. And the disc is done. I almost wish there was a director's commentary. So, obviously, you know to rent this first to test these waters. See you in the funny pages, which by the way weren't this film's script pages. Kaboom!
Reviewed By: Nick Venable