Monday, November 9, 2009

Sebastian Gutierrez's WOMEN IN TROUBLE is a four-star hoot. And then some.

Carla Gugino as a nun? No, wait: she's only playing a nun. In a hard-core movie. Because she's the country's leading female porn star, Elektra Luxx. You're lining up already? Smart move. Sebas-
tian Gutierrez's giddy and goofy WOMEN IN TROUBLE is a delight, start to finish -- and I do mean "finish": If you leave before the closing credits are completely over you'll have

missed one of the funnier bits. If you've a taste for frisky, ensem-
ble fun, I can almost guarantee you'll enjoy this little romp.

As writer/director, Mr. Gutierrez (shown, right) gave us one of the more interesting (if not wholly successful) vampire movies of the past decade, Rise (with Lucy Liu and Ms Gugino, among others) and the wonderful cable-TV creep-out She Creature, as well as Judas Kiss (from 1998). He also wrote Snakes on a Plane. (Say what you will: I thought it was a lot of dumb fun.) You'll notice I am not mentioning Gothika. If I ever get to interview Gutierrez, we'll probably find a way to blame that one on the film's director.

In any case, this guy is getting better and better. With Women in Trouble, he's credited as director, writer and producer, so if you don't like it, there's only one man to blame. But I think you will, particularly if you are the kind of movie buff who can appreciate a film that goes over the top -- and then beyond -- with a smile and some style. Gutierrez tosses together quite a group of women. Start with a trio of porn stars (Gugino, shown below), Emmanuelle Criqui (at bottom) and Adrianne Palicki, of TV's Friday Night Lights, and if the latter, shown above with her director, does not hit the bigger-time very soon, after her delightful turn here as a dumb sweetie-pie, I shall be quite surprised); two sisters (played by a very fine Connie Britton and Sarah Clarke); the latter's husband (Simon Baker) and their unusual daughter (Isabella Gutierrez); an about-to-be-married stewardess (Marley Shelton); and a famous rock star (Josh Brolin). There are others, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but let's leave it at this.

The manner in which Gutierrez has managed to link these characters is creative and amusing enough, but how they play off each other, in ways expected and not, is even more so. If every joke is not equally successful and some moments are more piquant than others, I suspect you'll be chuckling hard enough to barely notice. The women in this filmmaker's world maybe engaged in sleazy work and lots of deception, but they are so gorgeous to view and the actresses all so game and radiant, that we root for them. And anyway, most of the men on view are crumb-bums of a particularly high (or low) order. The movie is "camp," all right, but unlike last weeks' The Fall, this one is intentionally so.

Occasionally Gutierrez does some-
thing visu-
ally special -- such as his rapid-fire montage of thoughts that fly through a woman's mind about her upcom-
ing baby. The flashes seem slick, yes, but also smart and real. And when the director cribs -- as in what looks like an homage to Bobcat Goldthwait and Sleeping Dogs Lie, at least he's stealing from the smart guys.

Women in Trouble is being released via Screen Media, a company that is "classing up" its act considerably with this juicy treat. The fun begins Friday, November 13, in New York City and L.A. You can check for specific theaters here.


Anonymous said...

I keep hearing great things about this one, James, and your review confirms it. Carla Gugino is steadily becoming one of the finest actresses out there. Me and my gals are checking this one out!

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks, Anonymous. I don't think you -- or your gals -- will be disappointed. Either way, let me know.