Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains

(Lou Adler, 1981)
How strange that the first film ever to not only portray women in punk but passionately identify with their point of view was helmed by Adler, a middle-aged music bizzer responsible for bringing the world Sam Cooke, the Mamas and the Papas, and Cheech and Chong - not to mention Carole King, who turns up on the radio in an early scene to symbolize everything young hater Diane Lane is rebelling against. Of course the staunch girl-power POV is no doubt attributable to writer Nancy Dowd - who also gave us the boy-power classic "Slap Shot" - but I'm sure Adler is responsible for the finer details of an impossibly bleak rock tour through rainy autumn Pennsylvania. Lane's relentless snot routine doesn't compromise the film's world view of universal sisterhood, in which her drumless, shambling trio of pals speaks loud and clear to everyone from mall rats to news anchors, before they're sold out by a mercenary son of a bitch music bizzer. The resolution starts out looking like the usual punk's-a-capitalist-gimmick cynicism, and it kind of is, but in Adler's hands this actually takes on the aspect of a positive message: since personal pain can't be honestly commodified, you might as well "join the professionals today," the better to speak to your femme faithful. It doesn't quite come off because Lane never embodies the transition: it's fuck-you from beginning to end, and then suddenly she's all smiley with a perm under the credits. However, while her bandmates - including Laura Dern in her first speaking role - deserve more focus than they get, their wide-eyed vulnerability does give Lane a chance to show some empathy, and her tryst with boypunk Ray Winstone is a gift rather than a cheat, suggesting that hating the world needn't cut you off from everyone in it.

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