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sin-you-sinners1

Bobbi is an over-the-hill but still spirited exotic dancer. Somebody ought to remake this movie with Madonna in the great role of Bobbi. Aided by the power of a Haitian amulet, she holds in thrall a guy named Dave, a born loser she pulled out of the gutter. But Dave can’t keep his hands off Bobbi’s daughter, young Julie, who looks like one of those “draw me” art school ads that used to be in the backs of magazines.drawme

There’s some kind of honky voodoo ceremony, where Julie gets to show her stuff. She and Dave run away together, and there’s some very Freudian cross-cutting between their tryst, and Bobbi’s onstage bump-and-grind. The amulet does its work, and Dave comes crawling back. Desolate Julie wanders out into the night and is stalked by a leering man rolling a cigar around his mouth in the most hideously lascivious way.

This terminally camp film is odd, in that long stretches of it seem as if they were made for a silent film. It’s broadly acted, like a silent. Yet, there is dialogue – sometimes, lots of it. But the sound quality is awful and the continuity is sub-par. On the other hand, there’s human sacrifice in the club’s storeroom, and Julie ends up with the amulet.

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bad-timing

Under the credits, a man and a woman wander through a museum in Vienna, comporting themselves like lovers. We get close-up views of luscious romantic Klimt paintings and then – a Schiele canvas, in which a man desperately holds onto a woman who looks very much like she wants to get away.

He is American research psychologist Alex Linden (Art Garfunkel) and she’s an American too, Milena Flaherty (Theresa Russell), who comes and goes across Austria’s border and has a husband over there in Czechoslovakia. Russell is beyond superb. While directing the movie, Nicholas Roeg fell in love with her, and you can sorta tell from the way the whole thing is a showcase to display her. She deserves it. (They got married, had a couple of kids, and divorced.) Her eyes seem to change color in different scenes – there’s one in particular where they are the palest icy blue, yet seem a minute later to be dark.

The first question you have to ask about Milena is, what does she live on? When she moves, she only takes along one small bag. Yet she has fabulous clothes and an apartment full of stuff. Is she a trust fund baby, or does she hold onto the Czech husband because he’s rich, or what? There’s no indication of her ever doing any kind of work. She can get away with being drunk, having irresponsible, impulsive adventures, and so forth. Her source of income isn’t relevant to the plot, but geez.

Along with his research and teaching, Alex Linden does occasional jobs for the US intelligence services. For instance, a spook hands him two files, and tells him to find out if either of the subjects “sniffs cocaine or plays with little girls or boys.” Linden, who should know better, is a poor security risk. He brings files home. He brings home a file on Milena’s husband, which includes her photo and biographical information.

We learn the story of Milena and Linden in flashbacks. In fact there’s probably more cutting back and forth in time than in any movie ever made. It’s pretty disorienting. So go ahead and watch it twice.

In the present, an ambulance takes the overdosed Milena to the hospital. Inspector Netusil (Harvey Keitel) extracts the story from Linden. Milena had called him up and said “I’ll be dead in a minute, I wanted to say goodbye” and of course he went right over. It was no big deal, she’d overdosed before. Linden paints her as a wild woman who denies herself nothing, a woman to whom something dreadful was bound to happen sooner or later.

But the inspector sees a few discrepancies. Linden says he talked on the phone with Milena long after she would have already been comatose. And his car radio is tuned to a station that doesn’t start broadcasting until midnight. And so on. In other words, Netusil suspects exactly what happened. Far from rushing to Milena’s side and summoning help immediately, Linden waited to make sure she would die, and “ravished” her in the meantime.

We see how it went down. When Linden first arrived, Milena was still semi-coherent. Collapsed on the floor, with almost no motor skills left, she managed to get the telephone. Linden pulled the jack from the wall and replaced it later, after it was too late. Looking around the apartment, Netusil somehow intuits all of this. He even seems to have psychic visions that tell him what happened.

Linden puts Milena on her bed, saying “We don’t need anybody else. Just you and me.” While waiting for her to die, “It’s better this way, believe me, there was no other way.” After pacing around for a while, he cuts her clothes off and rapes her inert body, saying “I love you.”

At the beginning of their affair, Milena had pursued Alex, who hung back at first. We see them in happier times. He reads to her from the poetry of William Blake, the verse

What is it men in women do require?
The lineaments of Gratified Desire.
What is it women do in men require?
The lineaments of Gratified Desire. *

A scene where Milena’s in bed with her husband implies that she isn’t getting sexual satisfaction from him, although that’s not the only reason she goes out in search of adventure. He’s 30 years older, for one thing. Once when Milena goes missing for a week, Linden calls her husband, who is bored, dismissive, and contemptuous of this weak American, who can’t muster the necessary intestinal fortitude to deal with such a woman. The husband tells Linden that a man has to love Milena even more than his own dignity. And, as Linden learns, more than he loves being told the truth. She persists in lying about her marital status, and Linden crosses over to Czechoslovakia and bothers some hostile bureaucrats to try and find out if she’s divorced or what.

Linden wants Milena to move in with him, he wants her to return to the States with him and marry him. We sit in on one of his lectures, where he speaks to the students about how we are all spies. He knows all about this, because he spies on Milena a lot, and suffers terribly from jealousy, while she relates to a lot of different men.

But that’s not all. She does heedless things, like burn his car’s upholstery with a cigarette. She can be an embarrassing drunk. In one horrendous scene she’s invited him over. Her place cleaned up as if by the world’s most dedicated housewife, and she’s wearing some kind of mock-sexy outfit and enough makeup to turn her from a flashy woman into a grotesque clown. She’s changed herself into what he seems to want her to be. He leaves, and from the balcony she hurls bottles into the street, yelling at him so the whole neighborhood is disturbed.

Soon their discourse is reduced to “What?” and “Why?” as brilliantly encapsulated in one scene. He wants to possess Milena, who can’t be possessed. “You don’t own me. I don’t own you,” she says. She enumerates some of her priorities – to get up when she wants to get up, and eat when she wants to eat, and not to be with people she doesn’t like. (These are core values I recognize, and I don’t think a person who holds them is necessarily a monster of selfishness.) They have a terrible argument on the stairs and she declares, “I just want to be allowed to give where I can – what I can – to who I can.” What she most likes to give, and there’s nothing wrong with this, either, are the Lineaments of Gratified Desire.

There’s a lot of cross-cutting to emphasize the twinship of sex and death. From Milena’s orgasm to her convulsions on the emergency room operating table. From the couple having sex, to the doctor spreading her legs and going in with a speculum to look for rape evidence. From Milena’s head hanging over the edge of the bed during sex, to the doctors doing the tracheotomy.

With unflagging persistence, the inspector interrogates Linden. He’s fully tuned in to the atmosphere of claustrophobic obsession and sexual pessimism reminiscent of certain Leonard Cohen lyrics. The intuitive genius detective is the role Harvey Keitel was born for, and this isn’t the first time he’s filled it, or the last. Anyway, he’s just about gotten Linden to confess when Milena’s husband appears at the door. More bad timing. She’s alive, and will recover.

I like how the art references in the film hang together. For instance, we see Milena reading The Sheltering Sky, and later we see her with Linden on vacation in Morocco, which apparently was their last happy time. This is where he made the mistake of talking about marriage, which left her completely unimpressed. As he waits for her to die, he plays a record of Moroccan music instantly recognizable as the Master Musicians of Jajouka. Which is ironic, because this is supposed to be healing music. Maybe that’s why Milena survives the drug-induced coma. You’d think the professor would be smart enough not to play the wrong kind of music to die by.

So Linden gets away with attempted murder, and loses Milena of course. There’s a flash-forward to a future scene, when they’re both back in their own country. She gets out of a cab, he gets into a cab. He had asked her to return to the States with him, as his wife. Instead, their only meeting is accidental and brief, and she looks at him with hatred.

*These lines, incidentally also figure in Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, where the characters initials (like the author’s) are LGD (for Lineaments of Gratified Desire, of course.)

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inserts1

Hollywood, the Thirties: a washed-up former movie director, referred to as the Boy Wonder (Richard Dreyfuss), is reduced to making pornographic short films in his about-to-be-condemned rented mansion. His stars are Harlene, a wisecracking flapper par excellence who supports herself by waitressing and her habit by actressing, and Rex, a stupid and egotistical no-talent whose sideline is grave-digging. In the midst of the day’s shooting, producer Big Mac arrives; since he is paying the bills he can’t be thrown off the set. With Mac is a woman he introduces as his “fiancée – maybe”, Miss Cathy Cake. Mac, as usual, has brought Harlene’s paycheck in the form of a packet of white powder. This time, she overdoses, and while Mac (Bob Hoskins) and Rex (Stephen Davies) are away disposing of the body, Cathy Cake undertakes to seduce the supposedly impotent (owing to the failure of his career, and his massive intake of alcohol) Boy Wonder.

inserts2

This intricately structured film, written and directed by John Byrum, is both an allegorical representation of the film industry and an extended metaphor in which each character is an archetype, portraying the various ways in which individuals relate to Art with a capital A.

Harlene (Veronica Cartwright) represents the artist of real but abused talent. Despite her junk habit she is a professional – out of her dress and ready to start work the minute she arrives; listening intently as the Boy Wonder explains the purpose of a shot; getting it on the first take – even Big Mac recognizes that she is a “good little worker.”

Harlene’s affair with the Boy Wonder is part of their shared past. Refusing to believe that he can’t or won’t resume it, she gently tries to arouse him, which he tolerates up to a point but finally, patience exhausted, dumps her from his lap onto the floor. Her expression at that moment is worth the price of admission.

She is also a clown. When the wind-up camera grinds to a halt, destroying an intense scene, she rips her slip open and makes a ridiculous face to distract the director from his exasperation at having to rewind. Of the two women Harlene is by far the more sympathetic character: loving, generous, supportive, naïve, spontaneous, a little dumb. Her honesty, her humor and openness, her already anachronistic flapper attire and giddy ways, are all endearing. Although worldly-wise on the surface, she is essentially an innocent with the fabled heart of gold.

Cathy Cake (Jessica Harper), on the other hand, is dangerous and weird, a pasty-faced caricature of innocence, a bisque doll who plays the lady while casting sidelong glances at Rex’s crotch.

Cathy’s coy ways disguise her twisted motivations and insidious intent. Although she aspires to be an actress, she realizes her total lack of talent and creativity, admitting that her liaison with Big Mac is a stratagem designed to bring her the opportunities that her own efforts cannot. But this ambition to be in the movies can be furthered at the same time as her new goal: once she learns that the Boy Wonder is theoretically incapable of sexual relations, she sets out to get him into bed. She proposes to meet the challenge of reawakening his desire if he, in exchange, will put her in front of the camera and take on the much more daunting challenge of teaching her “to be great.” The longest sequence of the film consists of her amazing relentless campaign to this end.

Cathy has already demonstrated plenty of what may be termed psychic vampirism: she wanted to go watch Harlene shoot up; when the director was arguing with Big Mac she watched them as if a spectator at a tennis match. She breaks the Boy Wonder down by digging at his feelings for Harlene, his doubts about himself as a creative artist, his agoraphobia, and every other weak spot she can detect in him. Just when all this psychological probing gets to be too much, Cathy switches tactics and displays a dazzling array of manipulative and exploitive ploys. The ultimate irony of Cathy Cake is that she is indeed a superb and inspired actress – everywhere but in front of the camera.

Eventually Cathy succeeds in gaining the Boy Wonder’s confidence, and his body, along with causing a painful misunderstanding, and a lot of trouble for them both on Big Mac’s return. Even in the heat of passion she is true to her vampire nature – when the Boy Wonder wants to nuzzle and kiss, she pushes his head back in order to observe his face in the flushed and vulnerable erotic state. Her quintessential line, repeated several times throughout the film, is, “I want to see it all.” Her zombie-like appearance during the first scene was exactly right: she is an example of intelligence and curiosity with no ruling consciousness; out of control, like some monstrous child. Cathy’s outstanding trait is this half-voyeuristic, half-vampiristic need to feed on the pain of others. Archetypally, she is the Fan: this quality of being an emotion junkie is what going to the movies is all about.

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the Inserts poster

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in-the-realm

It’s easy to see why this film is talked about wherever horny cinemaphiles gather. My goodness, what these folks get up to. In the Realm of the Senses is a real f*ckathon complete with dangerous games, and I bet it’s the first erotic film that involves a 68-year-old woman as one of the participants. And these people are screwing to music that sounds a little too much like Yoko Ono.

The guy lights a cigarette while the woman is copping his joint. This seems rather cavalier and disrespectful. But at the end, he lets her strangle him to death and cut off his dick, so I guess it’s fair.

Japanese fiction, like that of just about any other language, includes a tradition of the “poison woman.” In the late 1890s and early 1900s, Japanese women who were actually convicted of crimes found this useful. Their memoirs and confessions constituted a very popular genre. Quite often these women were politically motivated, and used their notoriety to raise awareness of the society’s shortcomings.

In 1936 Abe Sada choked her lover to death and then removed his penis with a knife, and books by and about her became bestsellers. It was probably more about mental illness than about politics, but many commentators did find a political slant to her story and she became, for one reason or another, quite a folk-hero. She was released from prison five years after the lust murder.

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boxcar-bertha

My top ten reasons why Boxcar Bertha immediately was a favorite the minute it came out, and stayed in the “I Heart This” category:

  • Memorable love scene
  • Horrible death scene
  • Released in what was for me the thick of the “Sixties”
  • Symbolizes the “Sixties” very adequately
  • Grandpa was a union organizer
  • Great-grandpa was an abolitionist
  • I love David Carradine because of “Kung-fu” on TV
  • In this role, Barbara Hershey reminds me of a girl I knew in Venice, CA
  • I adore Barbara Hershey
  • “Life made her an outcast. Love made her an outlaw.”

Bertha Thompson’s daddy is a crop duster, and a rich guy makes him fly even though the plane is in bad repair. Now she’s a homeless orphan, a real survivor with both guts and luck, caught in the Great Depression. She keeps running into union organizer Bill Shelly, who is characterized as a “nigger lover,” among other things. Bill is always getting the shit beat out of him by people who disagree with his politics.

They both ride the rails. Using her feminine wiles, she helps Bill and his friends escape from a chain gang. The set a car on fire on the railroad tracks so the train has to stop. They take all the money and steal the train. There are plenty of fights, car chases, crashes, fires, robberies. A newspaper story about their criminality offends Bill. To show that he’s a revolutionary, not a common crook, he decides to take his share of the loot to the union hall. Bertha amuses herself by holding two well-dressed men at gunpoint, ordering them to stand up, sit down, etc. This may have been Hershey’s finest cinematic moment, and I mean that in all sincerity.

Hershey and Carradine have both said that the sex was unsimulated, as in, they were really doing it. The movie was made at the peak of their real-life love affair, and it shows.

Bill’s sore spot is poked when people keep reminding him he’s no longer a union man, but now a common criminal. They get caught trying to kidnap a raiload tycoon. Bertha escapes, Bill is sentenced. He’s back on a chain gang again, still getting shit beat out of him.

Bertha is picked up by a woman who turns out to be a madam. An anthropologist rents her time and asks a bunch of questions. She’s reunited with Bill. They kiss, the G-men break in and capture him and nail him to side of boxcar. They put writing over his head, obvious Christ symbolism, you know, like the scroll at the top of some crucifixes. A black guy surprises them and shoots all of Bill’s enemies. The train starts to move, and he’s still nailed to the boxcar. Bertha runs alongside, “Don’t take him, don’t take him.” It’s an unforgettable image, like in Rabbit Proof Fence where the mothers run after the government goons who take their kids away.

Given the Jesus analogy, it’s kind of weird that Barbara Hershey later portrayed Mary Magdalene in The Last Temptation of Christ, which, come to think of it, was also directed by Martin Scorsese. Boxcar Bertha has been called “Scorsese’s exploitation flick” and he played a small part it in, as a john in a brothel. It was produced by Roger Corman, who taught Scorsese what a $600,000 budget can do. The script was loosely based on a book, Sister of the Road, which was loosely based on the life of a real person, but apparently didn’t have much in common with her at all.

Related: Celebrities I Have Known

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Bernardo Bertolucci directed The Dreamers, in which Michael Pitt is Matthew, a young American in Paris during the student uprising of 1968. In his hotel room, Matthew demonstrates what a spontaneous guy he is by walking across the bed to get to the bathroom, where he pees in the sink, or at least that’s how it looks. Maybe this is the normal plumbing. Perhaps French urinals are actually elevated far from the floor, and I’m just an unsophisticated hick.

Matthew meets brother-and-sister twins who, like him, are ferocious cinephiles. Theo and Isabelle are both, it goes without saying, beautiful, as well as exquisitely bilingual. They habitually act out scenes from classic films, which are also intercut into this one. Some critics believe this is too artsy-fartsy, but I think it’s swell.

The twins invite Matthew home for dinner with their parents. Favorite scene: During the meal, the guest goes into quite a lovely and original acid-like rap about how things all fit together.

Theo despises his father for not supporting the student activists. But the father says, “Poets don’t sign petitions, they sign poems.” As soon as the parents leave the room, Isabelle turns off the overhead light, and lights candles. She teases Matthew with some Freudian nonsense, saying, “This” (measuring her brother’s nose) “is double the length of this” (measuring Matthew’s nose). Is it innocent silliness, or is she baiting him with a reference to the popular myth that the size of the nose reflects the size of the penis? She kisses Matthew lightly, and something tricky happens with the visual as he pulls her back for another kiss.

This apartment must be enormous. Theo leads Matthew through a maze of rooms and hallways, to a room where he’ll spend the night. Again, he pees in the sink. This time, there’s no doubt, because somebody’s toothbrush takes a hit.

The parents leave on vacation and Matthew stays on. The following weeks are filled with complicated head-trips and sensual exploration, as he falls in love with both of the twins. Theo and Isabelle are very kissy and huggy with each other, and go around the house undressed, and share their bathroom doings, and even sleep together naked. (This film has so many hot spots, there’s bound to be one that does it for you.) Speaking to Matthew of his sister, Theo says, “We’re Siamese twins, joined here,” as he taps his head.

They dare Matthew to duplicate the race through the Louvre from Godard’s Bande à Part. “This is a test,” Isabelle says. Matthew passes, and on the way home they reprise the chant from Freaks, “We accept him, one of us.” Intercut of course with footage from Todd Browning’s classic film.

For losing one of the film challenges, Isabelle orders her brother to masturbate over a picture of Marlene Dietrich, as she has secretly witnessed. “I want you to do it the way you did it when you thought no one was watching,” she says. To Matthew’s stunned astonishment, Theo falls to his knees and obeys his sister.

Theo acts the death scene from Scarface, which the others don’t guess, so as a penalty Isabelle and Matthew have to make love on the kitchen floor. Lots of naked Michael Pitt here, dick and all. Theo pretends nonchalance. He’s at the stove cooking eggs while they go at it. As it turns out, Isabelle was a virgin, and discovering the amazing amount of blood, Matthew smears it over her face and neck. She cries. Then they’re making it somewhere else, she’s calling him “My first love, my great love.”

They run out of food and Theo goes outside wearing only a green jacket with nothing on his bottom half. Apparently there’s a convenient market, just downstairs, for he roots around in some garbage cans. Students are painting slogans on the columns of venerable buildings. Theo and Matthew have an argument over Vietnam, and also over the ethics of filmmaking as voyeurism. One of them says, “Films are crimes and filmmakers are criminals” or something to that effect.

Most unbelievable scene: Communally bathing in a regulation-size tub, somehow they all manage to fall asleep. Of course their political activism has ceased; the three of them are just wrapped up in their exclusive world of weirdness. Matthew points this out to Theo, who displays a glowing statue of Mao in his room, and is supposed to be such a fierce dissenter. Theo’s friends also scold him, for withdrawing into the private domain.

When Matthew fails to answer a film quiz, the twins strip him down, demanding to shave his pubic hair as a penalty. He refuses. Beginning to suspect that the bond between the twins might be a bit sick, he asks Isabelle out on a date without Theo, and they apparently have a great time – at, of course, a movie. But when they get home, Isabelle hears the sounds of her brother in bed with another woman. She cries, attacks Matthew, and generally freaks out.

Later, Isabelle reverts to childhood and erects a makeshift tent, bringing the two men to sleep inside it, with her between them. While Matthew sleeps, she repeatedly begs assurance from her twin brother that their love will last forever.

The parents return to find the place a huge mess. They write another check, and creep away. Question: since the mom leaves the check in a place where, finding it, the young people will surely understand that their triple naked slumber has been observed, why do the parents bother to tiptoe around?

Isabelle wakes up first and knows what her parents saw. So she hooks up a hose to the gas line, and drags it back into the tent, intending, I suppose, to kill all three of them. Question: Why does a 3rd-story Parisian apartment just happen to have a 50-foot garden hose lying around in its kitchen?

Now there’s footage from some classic, where a woman rolls down a hill, wanting to go into the river and drown, but stops at the edge. In the black and white film, this unfortunate creature climbs back up the incline and tries again. A window shatters. Isabelle says, “The street came flying into the room,” which is a great line, but they’re hella far up in the building, for chrissake. The trio goes outside and joins the protesting throng that surges through the streets toward some strategic destination. Even though they are latecomers, they arrive just in time for Theo to pitch the first Molotov cocktail. Matthew begs Isabelle to hang back in relative safety, but she forsakes him and runs off into the violence, hand in hand with her twin.

The police charge, in a horrible cartoon-like endless wave which is really quite apocalyptic. The police and the rioters outside contrast with the self-absorbed little universe the three young people had inhabited. This looks very much like an homage to a scene near the end of In the Realm of the Senses, where rank after rank of marching soldiers emphasize the divide between the real world and the enclosed, obsessive world of the two lovers. The movie ends up with Edith Piaf on the sound track: “Je ne regrette rien” – “No, I regret nothing.”

What else is there to like about The Dreamers? Dylan’s “Queen Jane” is part of the sound track. Isabelle, wearing long black gloves and with a sheet wrapped around her hips, appears against a black background, looking like Venus de Milo – only much slimmer and more toned. She does have the most amazing breasts, and we get to see them plenty, throughout the film. Trivia: Jake Gyllenhaal was originally up for the part of Matthew, but didn’t care for all the nakedness the script called for, so we got Michael Pitt instead.

Related: the “filmmakers as voyeur theme” – see Harrison’s Flowers

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I adore Juliette Lewis. If she’s in it, I’ll watch it. Here, she’s Beth, who along with girlfriend Deb (Uma Thurman) spends evenings hanging out at a bar, hoping to get lucky. Beth lives with her daughter Amber, the coolest kid, who is into baton twirling. Deb lives with her mother Virginia (the splendid Gena Rowlands).

One night at the bar, Deb has a short conversation with Rick, who not only has eyes like Patrick Swayze, but actually owns a house! But the next night, he ignores her. She totally throws herself at the guy, so pathetically desperate that Beth can’t help being embarrassed for her. Rick grudgingly allows Deb to come home with him and it’s raining when they get there – always a bad sign, in a movie. They sit around and drink beer for a bit, but he doesn’t make a move, and suddenly she blurts out, “I give an incredible blow job” and proceeds to devour him. They wake up on the floor, where he says, “I’m fine.” She wants to move to the bed and continue the action. Reluctantly, he takes her to bed but the action doesn’t continue, he just wants to sleep. She does manage to get a conversation going, in which he discusses home handyman projects. In her mind, she’s already moved in and helping him remodel.

Meanwhile, Deb’s mom and her guy Nick are having a whole different kind of conversation about Virginia’s house, which he encourages her to fix up a little if that’s what makes her happy, to go ahead and spend some of her hard-earned money on things that please her. These two are in late middle age, maybe even old, and they’re amorously affectionate. You don’t see a lot of this in movies, but it sure looks good. They’re sweet and considerate with one another, and talk freely about their former spouses. There’s a lovely moment when Nick shows up at the diner where Virginia works. She spots him, sitting in a booth, and does a little bounce on the balls of her feet -visibly perking herself up – before going over to take his order. He shows her a brochure for a place he has picked out in Florida for them to retire to, together.

After one lousy night with Rick, Deb browses through a catalog and picks out an engagement ring. Totally disregarding the fact that he’d obviously wished she had disappeared overnight, and didn’t even want to have breakfast with her, she’d undauntedly continued to abase herself, inviting him over for dinner. On the evening of this “date,” she prepares a big spread and gets all gussied up – and of course, he never shows. Her out-of-control neediness gets even worse. She sits in her car staking out his house, crying, till finally he arrives home alone. Next day she calls in sick and hangs out at the bar, where she runs into her mother’s boyfriend Nick, who manages to cheer her up a little. Later, when Nick doesn’t show up to meet Virginia, Deb harangues her about how stupid she is ever to believe in men. But there’s a good reason why Nick stood her up – he had a heart attack and died. Virginia’s grief is wretched. He wasn’t just some guy she glommed onto, he was a real gent who genuinely loved her. Now, no more love, no more Florida plan, no more dancing to Sinatra.

Beth’s style is way different from Deb’s. In being superficial, just trying to have a good time, she handles life much more competently than her man-hungry friend. For example, there is some talk with the bartender about Beth sticking around after hours for some fun – but he insists it has to be there, he’s not going anyplace. But she gets a phone call and really has to go home, where her daughter is lonely, and threatening to call up the grandparents. Beth is not that desperate for male companionship, and puts her daughter first. Surprise – the bartender reconsiders, and says maybe he’ll swing by later.

Deb shows up at the bar, dejected and morose, and swills down several drinks. Rick shows up, and after she begs for attention, says if she wants to get laid later, that’s fine, but while he’s there he’s going to hang with his friends and shoot some pool. She makes a spectacle of herself dancing alone, something which only a few days earlier she had pounced on Beth about – “People think you look stupid.” Which Beth didn’t. But when Deb slinks around dancing alone, trying to attract Rick’s attention, she really does look stupid. She pesters him, pulling him away from his game, trying to get him to dance. She continues to make such a scene that he decides to split, which causes her to totally throw herself at him, clutching desperately. Disgusted, Rick says “You should sober up,” and leaves.

Deb says to the bartender, “What’s wrong with me? I really want to know.”
“Maybe you don’t see things so clearly.”
“Hey, fuck you.”

Of course this isn’t the only instance we’ve seen of Deb’s “hysterical blindness.” In the first scene, she’d told Beth about actually going blind at work, and being taken to the doctor, where her vision returned. This episode was caused by stress. During one of the bar evenings, some other women were putting Deb down because of her mother’s humble waitress job. But when she was mad at her mom for having Nick stay over, Deb went into the diner and did this pain-in-the-ass picky customer routine, to help make her mom’s shift miserable. There doesn’t seem to be any aspect of her life where Deb sees anything clearly.

After the debacle with Rick, Deb goes home to snuggle up with her sleeping mother. We’ve already seen Beth snuggling with her daughter. As always, the women are left to take comfort from one another, the men having done their typical disappearing acts. Virginia does, at least, take the loving advice Nick had given her before he died, and buys some nice new furniture for her house. She also has the sad reward of hearing from Nick’s son how happy the old man had been lately, and how glad his children were that he had found that happiness in what turned out to be his final days.

In the last scene, the two young women and little Amber frolic in the yard to the strains of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” as the bereaved Virginia looks on, smiling. Really, as we’ve seen so many times before in films and in real life, the world rests on the strong backs of women, while men are just an occasional blip on the screen.

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