Screen Media Films // 2009 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brendan Babish (Retired) // February 24th, 2010
High Hopes, High Anxiety, High Heels.
The first sign of trouble is that this film deals exclusively in women's issues is written, but is directed by a man: Sebastian Gutierrez (whose esteemed writing credits also include Snakes on a Plane). I'm not saying men can't understand women. I'm sure some do. RuPaul, for instance. However, Gutierrez does not.
Full disclose: I am a man, and might not be the best arbiter of female understanding. Still, watching this film I found myself dumbfounded by nearly every other scene, as these characters resemble no women I have met or even heard of.
Women in Trouble is an accurate title: the movie is populated by a serious of women who are interconnected and in trouble. Several of these women are porn stars, including Elektra Luxx (Carla Gugino, Watchmen), Holly Rocket (Adrianne Palicki, Friday Night Lights), and Bambi (Emmanuelle Chriqui, Entourage). Luxx is in trouble because she has been impregnated by a drug-addled rock star. Rocket has two problems: she's the eyewitness to a murder and has a mental block that prevents her from performing oral sex on women. Bambi's not really in trouble, though her sugar daddy's murder does perturb her.
There are also a few women in trouble who are not porn stars: Doris (Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights) has family problems and is stuck in an elevator with Luxx and Maxine (Sarah Clarke, Men of a Certain Age) is a therapist who's just learned that her husband is having an affair with one of her patients.
The ensemble cast features more noteworthy supporting characters -- including additional women in trouble -- but to list all of them would compromise one of the film's few assets, namely weaving together several seemingly disparate plots into one cohesive story. It's no easy trick, and Gutierrez deserves credit for making it look effortless.
That said, my difficulty with the film's characters ran too deep to be overcome by clever plotting. One of the more egregious problems is with all the film's porn stars. They are not only blasé about working in porn, but Gutierrez makes it seem like having sex for a living has no bearing on any other aspect of their life -- or, even worse, the plot. The racy dialogue not only doesn't ring true, but these women's jobs only add a bit of off-putting color to the movie.
It's not as if Gutierrez only has a tin ear when it comes to racy talk. The subplot involving Maxine is, on the surface, the most realistic, yet still absurd. Maxine's response to the infidelity initially seems odd, but the eventual showdown with her husband was one of the most befuddling domestic arguments I've ever seen.
There are loads of other head-shaking scenes in the film, but perhaps the most amusing aspect is how nearly every female character is incredibly good-looking, and just about all of them -- even the non-porn stars -- end up in their underwear at some point. My inner teenager was pleased by this, but it only further undermined the film's pretense of seriousness.
Ultimately, it is this pretense that may be Women in Trouble's biggest liability. The movie is not that funny, but there is much more comedic potential here than dramatic. However, neither of these avenues is fully committed to. A good example is a soliloquy a character gives, recounting a childhood memory of getting oral sex from a dog. The story is not really played for humor (the obvious choice) or even really dramatic -- which could work, since this was probably a traumatic experience. Instead she just tells the story and the only possible audience response is to grimace. Sadly, that just about sums it up for the film as a whole.
The picture on the DVD leaves a lot to be desired, while the sound quality is adequate. Women in Trouble takes place over the course of a day, though the timeline doesn't seem consistent. For example, characters will refer to it being late at the night while sunshine is clearly seeping in through the windows. The muddled colors in the transfer exacerbate this problem. At night, there is poor contrast and shadows envelope actors and sometimes the surrounding scenery as well.
For a movie with as much energy as this, the soundtrack is muted, and there are only a few musical cues that register on the rear speakers (the opening credits is the only highlight).
The disc also features a handful of deleted scenes, a featurette, and a trailer, though the best extra appears after the film's closing credits. In a cameo most people will probably miss, Joseph Gordon-Levitt interviews Luxx and Rocket. It's not side-splittingly funny, but probably delivers the biggest laughs of the movie.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Screen Media Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes