Artisan // 1989 // 86 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Ryan (Retired) // September 3rd, 2004
One boy loves her. One boy wants to see her dead. Every other boy in America just wants to see her boobies.
Ah, Drew. Prithy, dear reader, how many charms doth the young Barrymore conceal behind such fair countenance? Um...a lot. One of which was the way in which she seemed to grow from tyke to yowza-yowza in about 13.5 seconds, sometime around her rehab trips.
In any event, at some point the New Drew started making her clean and sober rounds in the 'Wood, looking for work. I'm sure she met with many Studio Types along the way; it's standard operating procedure. I'm sure they greeted her with much phony warmth and obsequious hosannas. Then, 55 minutes later, after they took their eyes off her chest, these Studio Types started thinking. Hey, they said, what if we start putting Drew in bikinis and wet T-shirts? I bet that would result in Godfather Part 2-like triumphs of cinema! And so, the legend that is Far From Home was born.
Drew Barrymore (E.T., etc.), a 14-year-old girl with a killer bod, plays Joleen Cox, a 14-year-old girl with a killer bod. Joleen is at the tail end of some kind of vacation with her non-custodial father Charlie (Matt "Max Headroom" Frewer), a magazine writer of some sort. While driving through the Nevada desert, their car runs out of gas and they are stranded in a podunk trailer-trash little burgh in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, the local service station has no gas, and doesn't expect any until the next day at the earliest. So Joleen and Dad are forced to stay in the crappy trailer park/hotel next to the service station for at least one night. They also get to witness a crime scene. Also stranded are a pair of women (whose relationship is never really defined), "mother" Louise (Karen Austin, Summer Rental) and scatterbrained "daughter" Amy (Jennifer Tilly, Bound). While checking in, Drew manages to meet the local Bad Kid, Jimmy (Andras Jones, Nightmare on Elm Street 4), and his über-trash mother who runs the trailer park (Susan Tyrrell, Poison Ivy: The New Seduction). Jimmy apparently takes a liking to young Joleen. I assume this, because he corners her against the side of a building and runs an ice cube up and down assorted parts of her body. That, to me, appears to be a sign of interest. We're also briefly introduced to the Local Nerd, Pinky Sears (Anthony Rapp...who's made an entire career out of playing nerdly characters, e.g. Dazed and Confused and Twister), as he covers for his mom, who's missed the rent payment again. Rounding out the cast is Richard Masur (former president of SAG) as the local ex-con-Vietnam-vet-who-runs-the-service-station.
Since it's about 400,000 degrees out (a typical summer day in Nevada, actually), Drew...err, Joleen -- promptly decides to take a swim in her bikini. (Thank you, Jebus!) The underlying purpose of the movie now successfully achieved, the film continues on with the plot.
Joleen sees a couple having loud, sweaty sex in a trailer; she's caught in her peeping by Jimmy, who was also checking out the action. Joleen kinda likes Jimmy...because he's dangerous! And mysterious! And he sure knows how to use his...ice cube! Pinky kinda likes Joleen, too...but, you see, Joleen just doesn't think of him in "that way," and just wants to be friends. Jimmy pushes Pinky around a lot. Meanwhile, Papa Charlie is trying desperately to find some way to connect with his daughter, and is failing spectacularly.
That's when people start to get killed. But before that gets going...Jimmy and Drew (err, Joleen) take a little swim in the olde-tyme swimmin' hole. Joleen done fergot her suit, so they's jus' goin' swimmin' with their knickers on. Apparently the sight of Drew...err, Joleen...in a wet white T-shirt sans undergarments is a bit much for Jimmy, because he tries to rape her.
Pinky saves the day for Joleen, and now Joleen starts to look at him in "that way." They go off to Pinky's Secret Hideout (I'm not making that up) and Joleen puts the heavy moves on poor (lucky) Pinky. Pinky, though, is about as nerdy as it is possible for a human to be. So although Drew...err, Joleen...does everything short of grabbing him by both ears and shouting "do me, now!" directly into his face, Pinky gets none.
This is, of course, where things start to get twisty...
Okay, so now I've described this film in such a way that no human being can possibly think it's anything but a prurient piece of crap. But shockingly...it's not. It's quite entertaining, believe it or not. For reasons other than underage Drew being stacked like Mamie van Doren and sleek as a young gazelle.
First of all, this film perfectly captures the essence of trailer trash in a way I've rarely seen. The "slice of life" scenes at the trailer park are laugh-out-loud funny. Whether they're supposed to be funny or not, I don't care...they entertained me to no end. There's a lot of good cinematography work, too, that really communicates the oppressive seediness of this little truckstop town. Besides that, the "trashy" characters really throw themselves into their roles, and seem to be having a lot of fun.
But the real strength of this film is the relationship between the leads...Drew and Matt Frewer. Their father/daughter interaction is very realistic, and both actors draw more out of the characters via their performances than comes through just in the words on the pages of the script. I guess I've just seen too many bad films where the "teenage daughter" is about 25, the "father" is in his 40s, and you get the distinct impression that they were banging each other off-screen. When something true-to-life pops up in a film, it makes an impression on me. And this film made an impression.
Matt Frewer is an enigma to me. He's one of those guys, like Michael Caine, that gives an all-out effort to make every role he plays interesting in some way. He works a lot, but doesn't get a lot of attention. Most people remember his "Max Headroom" character (which he turned into the greatest sci-fi television show ever made...I will not debate that assertion), but little performances like this, or his "evil genius" role in Taken, show what he really is capable of doing. I just don't know why he hasn't been more successful than he's been. (And that's not to say he hasn't been successful, mind you.)
Barrymore is about as effective as a 14-year-old girl can be as an actress -- which for her means she's underachieving. She was "about as effective as a 14-year-old girl can be as an actress" when she was 8, in Irreconcilable Differences, for Pete's sake.
Nobody should think that this is a good film. It's not. It's a poor film that's just good enough to be slightly entertaining in some ways, and highly (but likely unintentionally) entertaining in others.
Problem #1 is the abject predictability of this flick. The film has plot twists and countertwists galore -- but by the time the film got around to throwing Drew -- err, Jolene -- and Pinky together, I had correctly predicted every single thing that would happen in the final act, including all the twists. Plus, said final act ran a bit long. And the climax involves a sandstorm. As any good MST3K fan knows, sandstorm = deep hurting!
This DVD was pushed out in 2001 to capitalize on the success of Charlie's Angels and the attention Barrymore was drawing as a result. It has the feel of a rushed product in every aspect, too -- the picture quality is relatively poor (it seems the original film may have been shot on 35mm stock, so that may be the culprit) despite the box's claim of a "digitally mastered" transfer; the audio is merely passable; and there are no extras to be seen. (Not that one would expect a lot of extras on a DVD of a very-low-budget B-film that was 13 years old at the time of the DVD release...) Expect a lot of artifacts on your screen; it's almost as bad as watching a fairly worn copy of the film through a projector.
Plus, and there's really no getting around this -- Drew is 14 years old. There's just something a bit icky about a film that deliberately exploits its star's physical assets when she's barely a high schooler. Of course Drew Barrymore is (was) no ordinary 14-year-old, and she does look and act about 28 in this, and...well, maybe I should stop now.
Far From Home: Come for the underage T&A. Stay for the trailer trash.
Drew, being a minor, is released to the custody of her parents and/or AA sponsors, after a stern lecture about the importance of wearing a bra when swimming in the age of "pause" buttons. Mr. Frewer is exonerated in toto, with the thanks of the court for his work 20 minutes into the future. Everyone else is sentenced to watch Doppelganger 20 times.
Review content copyright © 2004 David Ryan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Bottom 100 Discs: #30
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Rated R