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You know that feeling when you’re doing something you shouldn’t and are on edge about someone catching you in the act? Okay, enough dancing in circles. Have you ever watched porn in the privacy of your own room and are terrified that your mom will walk in and catch you? Of course you have! That’s kind of what Women in Trouble is like. While it’s certainly not pornography, it evokes that same uneasy feeling that you’re watching something that’s so wrong but so right at the same time.
Women in Trouble tells the story of a group of women who are, well, in trouble. Elektra Luxx (Carla Gugino) is a world famous porn star who finds out she’s pregnant. The baby daddy is a British drummer played by Josh Brolin eager to do some canoodling with a flight attendant named Cora (Marley Shelton). During a visit to the doctor, Elektra hops into an elevator with Doris (Connie Britton) bound for stucksville. After Doris gets over the initial neurosis of being trapped in a box dangling in an elevator shaft, the two have some girl talk. Meanwhile, Doris’ sister Addy (Caitlin Keats) and her daughter Charlotte (Isabella Gutierrez) are off to a typical day at the office of married psychiatry team, Maxine and Travis (Sarah Clark and Simon Baker). While Maxine delves into Charlotte’s emotional troubles, Travis is delving into something else. She catches Addy and Travis in the act, flees the office, hops in the car and literally runs into Holly (Adrianne Palicki), a rising porn star with a fear of girl-on-girl action. The chance encounter lands Holly and her hooker pal Bambi (Emmanuelle Chriqui) in a bar babysitting Maxine while she drinks her sorrows away.
There’s a lot going on here and at times, it’s hard to keep up. On their own, each situation is enthralling and emotionally charged, but writer-director Sebastian Gutierrez’s choice to transfer you from one to the next via fade to black transitions is disconnecting. Poor transitions are a death sentence for an anthology. Rather than letting each element naturally slide into place, the connections are shoved into your face spoiling the ultimate coalescence. Women in Trouble is a collage held together by scraps of Scotch Tape when it should have made with Gorilla Glue. The images are still admirable on their own, but when it comes seeing the big picture, it’s far too sloppy. Paradoxically, as you get further into Women in Trouble, the anticipation of a grandiose union becomes a thing of the past, you get used to the film’s uncomfortable flow and start to enjoy each storyline individually.
Yes, Women in Trouble features beautiful actresses in questionable situations and outfits, but the film is much deeper than the characters’ appearances suggest. They’re just women struggling with very real issues. Elektra is wary of having a child, Maxine just caught her husband cheating on her and Charlotte feels the effects of her mother’s dark past. Even Palicki’s character, who has a far less relatable occupational issue, earns your compassion. We’ve got bawd and we’ve got drama, but that’s not it. Women in Trouble is also pretty damn funny, which is what makes you so eager to sympathize with the characters’ plight. The stories aren’t just sob-fests. They’re serious situations camped up for the cameras making them more entertaining than troubling.
This range of emotion wouldn’t be possible without the extremely talented cast. Gutierrez produces some snappy dialogue, but it’s the actresses that make the characters so vibrant, the most impressive of which is newcomer Isabella Gutierrez, Sebastian Gutierrez’s daughter. Desperation to turn filmmaking into a family affair, often causes problems, but Isabella is a perfect Charlotte. She’s awkward, raw and oddly charming. The funniest of them all is certainly Palicki. She takes the dumb blond stereotype to the extreme, but manages to earn her character sympathy points rather than pity eye rolls. Brolin nails his cameo as a British rocker with an insatiable sex drive and be sure to stick around after the credits for an overacted, yet amusing cameo by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Women in Trouble is raunchy, dramatic, funny and often comes across as a sloppy conglomeration of all of the above. What makes it enjoyable, is that it’s different. Of course, some scenarios have been recycled, but overall it’s like nothing I’ve seen before. Connecting with the film is a difficult process but once you do, the experience is refreshing and rewarding. On top of that, Women in Trouble is being developed into a trilogy. Whoa! A trilogy about something other than spaceships, hobbits or superheroes? Women in Trouble is no masterpiece but it’s something new and it’s something that I’m curious to see more of.