Thursday, November 28, 2013

An appropriate viewing for this Turkey Day: Jamie Babbit's oddball BREAKING THE GIRLS

Over the past few Thanksgivings, TrustMovies has tried to pick an appropriate "turkey" of a movie about which to warn his readers. But since he has already covered The Counselor, he had to look elsewhere this year. Fortunately Netflix has recently unveiled, via the company's streaming service, a very odd new addition to the turkey farm. BREAKING THE GIRLS is a sort-of lesbian-themed, sort-of thriller, sort-of psychological mystery, sort-of sister act, sort-of college-girl-caper and all-over-ridiculous movie (but still rather fun, if you find yourself watching it while in an especially forgiving mood). It almost-but-doesn't-quite rise to the level of unintentional camp.

Plus, it offers Agnes Bruckner, shown below, an actress many of us have enjoyed ever since her breakout role more than a decade ago in Blue Car. Co-written, and pretty badly -- the characterization barely reaches rote level, but then, with all the last-minute twists and turns the script demands, this is not surprising -- by Mark Distefano and Guinevere Turner, the movie is directed by Jamie Babbit (shown at right), a filmmaker I have been rooting for since But I'm a Cheerleader, though she has yet to deliver a follow-up worth this impressive debut film. (The Quiet probably comes closest but doesn't, finally, make it.)

Breaking the Girls, tells the sad tale of a young, pretty and smart law student (Bruckner), scraping by on a scholarship, who one night during her job as a bartender, places money that should go into the till into her tip jar. She is seen by a nasty co-student (Shanna Collins, shown at bottom, left, with Tiya Sircar), and her actions are reported to her boss. She's then fired from her job and has her scholarship taken away, to boot.

Coincidentally (coincidence is rife in this movie), a pretty and sleazy femme fatale (Madeline Zima, above) happens to be sitting at the bar one night, makes friends with our heroine, and before you can say red-hot lesbian sex scene, they are having exactly that. Actually, first, as I recall, they have a semi-hot/almost-threesome in the pool, with Shawn Ashmore (below, center, who plays the cute FBI kid -- or is it CIA -- on The Following), who here plays the boyfriend of that nasty co-student, except that he really likes Ms Bruckner's character best and also, if we read the cast list during the end credits, turns out to be the son of her law professor, though that fact seems to have gone missing from the movie itself. During a sensuous, sleepy post-coital maneuver, Ms Fatale suggests to our heroine that, because Fatale hates her stepmother and heroine hates that nasty tattle-tale, the two girls should team up to kill both of them, with one killing the other's nemesis, since of course she will not be suspected of the crime. This is dumb, but at least our trio of filmmakers gets credit for having seen Strangers on a Train.

Things go from dumb to dumber, with little concern for any kind of remote believability. This is so the film can, in its relatively short running time, reach the point where surprise after surprise kicks in. By then you'll have kicked the movie itself -- unless you find, as I did, that screwy can move to nutty and end up being actually rather ridiculous fun.

Also involved is that supposedly wicked stepmother, a not-so-sterling stepfather, a kindly police officer, an aging relative (played by Melanie Mayron) and a few other characters, none of whom do much except push the silly plot along. But, as I say, if you find yourself in a forgiving mood, this kind of nonsense -- given its glossy surface, some very nice clothes and sets and an attractive cast and a particularly beautiful house which lends itself to this kind of  film -- you might find this year's turkey at least a bit tasty in certain regards.

If you, at the end of Breaking the Girls, think back on the film from its beginning, it makes just about zero sense. As  though anybody on this earth could exert that much control over those around them. But that, I guess, is part of its lame-brained charm. The movie, running 86 minutes, is available now on Netflix streaming, Amazon Instant Video & DVD.

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