Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Free Money


After more time in the studio, many of the Virtually Vicki infomercial segments are now complete. Maxine, the human cannonball has been sent home (and I'm told the scalp wounds will heal in a few weeks) so I've given her a complimentary House O'Hair wig. I'm having Joseph, my manager, contact the company tomorrow to see if we can change the name of my line to 'Maine's Manes' which I think would be much more euphonious. All that's left are the fashion parade for VickiWear and the collector doll introduction (where I'm going to be filmed doing a ribbon dance routine in an oversized sewing basket so as to appear to be a living doll myself). It should all be done by the end of next week, even with my trip to Nebraska for the concert.

I came home after a long day of vocalizing to find Norman engrossed in a new screenplay. Unfortunately, he was reading it on the roof of Chateau Maine and it took me some time to coax him back down the ladder. He's been a little paranoid ever since Nurse Tameka and her boyfriend were involved in that gun battle in the backyard and he likes to hide if left alone in the house. The script is for Waterworld II - The Gills Have Eyes and apparently the studio think Norman would be wonderful as Flounder. I left him practicing line readings, which consist mainly of 'Glub Glub', while I repaired to the home theater with a Brandy Alexander for some much needed rest.

On the way home, I had stopped at the local video emporium to pick up something entertaining and encountered a box entitled Free Money which, at first, I thought might be some sort of coupon special. Closer inspection revealed it to be a film from a few years ago of which I had never heard. The names Marlon Brando, Charles Sheen, Mira Sorvino, Donald Sutherland, Martin Sheen and David Arquette on the box piqued my interest - why had I not heard of this movie that had been able to corral so many name stars? I was about to find out.

Free Money is the story of a corrupt prison warden somewhere in Fargo country where he is known simply as 'The Swede' and is the terror of the small community in which he lives. The part is played by Brando as a cross between Snidely Whiplash and Orson Welles in his wine commercial years. The Swede is corpulent, fundamentalist, and appears to dye what remains of his hair with Tang. I thought that Brando had plumbed the depths of embarrassing makeup in The Island of Dr. Moreau; I was wrong. The Swede has a couple of idiotic identical twin daughters, who make the Olsen twins look like neurosurgeons, and who always speak in unison. This unwholesome duo becomes impregnated at the same time by a couple of town doofuses - Bud, the tow truck driver (Charles Sheen) and Larry, the cook at the local greasy spoon (Thomas Haden Church). Fortunately, we are spared the sex scene. After a double shotgun wedding, the girls move back home with their new husbands who basically become indentured servants to the Swede and his precious new pickup truck. (I'm not making this up.)

This is where things start to get complicated. Sheen and Church find out that a train carrying worn out US Currency from Canadian banks is due to pass through town and one evening, after too much beer and a viewing of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, they decide to stage the great train robbery. Both being a few bulbs short of a marquee,  nothing goes as planned. Throw in Donald Sutherland as the even more corrupt local judge in cahoots with Brando and Mira Sorvino as his estranged daughter. Sorvino just happens to be an FBI agent, sort of a Clarice Starling manqué, who comes back to investigate dubious goings on in her old home town and soon you have lots of plot strands which go everywhere and nowhere and which left this viewer with a bad case of indigestion.

I think this was supposed to be one of those ironic slice of life comedies, but it has the misfortune of being not in the least bit funny. It's not really a caper film as the train robbery is really just a plot device to bring people together. I finally decided that it's just a mess and there's not a lot more to it than that. The Coen brothers, whose style is quite obviously aped throughout, have nothing to worry about. Despite being a mess, it's somewhat watchable as you wonder in disbelief what name performer will next embarrass him or herself. It's a bit like driving past a massive pile up on the Ventura Freeway and staring, wondering if any of your acquaintances is likely to be involved.

The production staff, of whom I have never heard a word, all have Quebecois names so I assume this is a Canadian production. Blame Canada never sounded quite so apropos. There are some interesting visual moments fading in and out of black and white flashback sequences but the rest of the direction/editing/cinematography is adequate, at best.

The performances are a mixed bag. Brando is not at his most turgid here. Someone did restrain him a bit but it’s a little hard to get past the Strom Thurmond hair. Donald Sutherland does his usual creepy old man bit and Charles Sheen and Thomas Haden Church, as the protagonists, look like they'd rather be somewhere else. Sheen used to be considered an actor. Now he kind of lies around like a lump. Mira Sorvino is pretty dreadful. No self respecting FBI agent would lie there quaking in agony on being attacked by a fat wheezy old man armed with a square heeled pump. As for Martin Sheen and David Arquette, blink and you'll miss them in minor cameos.

This is a movie for Brando/Sheen/Sutherland/Sorvino completist fans only. It should, on no account, be viewed by the intelligent as a substantial loss of I.Q. points may result.

Tattooed scalps. Prison fights. Eyeball gouging. Truck smashing. Liars poker. Gratuitous Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini singing. Restroom stall smashing. Mud driving. Gratuitous weird angle set designs. Shoe attack.

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