Thursday, December 4, 2014

Madeleine Olnek's back! THE FOXY MERKINS is another bizarre charmer with occasional guffaws

Remember Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same? If you managed to see that weird little movie, you're not at all likely to have forgotten it. Its creator, director-and-co-writer, Madeleine Olnek, is back two years later with another small wonder that is likely to have a similar effect on you. And if THE FOXY MERKINS is not quite all that its predecessor was, this may be due mostly to the subject matter -- space aliens -- mixed with a certain loose, low-keyed style. There is indeed something about this odd combo that has resulted in a few unfor-gettably charming successes on the independent film front: The History of Future Folk, One-Eyed Monster and Ms Olnek's earlier movie.

There's one other very good thing that inhabits the two full-length movies that Ms Olnek (shown at right) has made: their star (and co-writer of this film), a young woman named Lisa Haas, shown below, left, whose entire acting resume is made up of Olnek's two films plus two more shorts by another filmmaker, Laura Terruso. Ms Haas is something else. Once witnessed in either of these films, she will re-main in your mem-ory as one of the sweetest, most bizarre movie stars (and she is a star!) you've ever seen.

Once again, as in Codependent Space Alien, Ms Haas is playing a woman (this time named Margaret) who is apparently clueless-to-just-about-everything, including how our society reacts to obese people. Her style is utterly deadpan, but nothing like the knowing deadpan of a Bill Murray or the some of those irony-sotted comic performers who dot today's TV screen. No. Ms Haas remains always sweet and alert, hopeful and game. And this is her great strength as both a performer and as the character who holds together Olneks' films.

There is one scene here (I think it happens twice, actually) in which Ms Haas must rise from a bed in an extended few moments in which she is fully nude and full-frontal, with her folds of fat on the kind of display that we are not used to seeing. That she carries this off so beautifully and, well, so fully -- she is at once sad, funny, brave and utterly dear -- gifts us with one of the true amazements of this movie year, putting immediately in the shade all those great "acting" performances of the Birdman cast.

The story this time 'round has Haas intent on earning her keep by becoming a lesbian hooker. To this end, and after some unsuccessful early attempts, she falls in with a thinner and more conventionally attractive woman (the equally oddball Jackie Monahan, also from Codependent Lesbian Alien and a co-writer here) who proclaims herself heterosexual, even though she, too, earns her keep via lesbian liaisons. These two have their ups and downs, as we alternately chuckle, marvel, question and guffaw. (A particularly good scene takes place at New York's Cinema Village, where one or another version of Lassie -- yes! -- is screening.)

Much fun is made of everything from closeted Republican lesbians to role playing in police attire, Talbots clothing store, and composting -- and in the end we meet an adorably cute Italian young man (Gian Maria Annovi) who used to know Margaret's mother. We also get another chance to see the terrific Alex Karpovsky, who is now making his mark in Girls but earlier graced Olnek's other movie. He is, as usual, wonderfully weird, goofy, and slightly dark -- first as the merkin salesman (don't ask) the ladies meet in a cemetery, who later somehow graduates to become a high-level honcho at CNN.

So where can you see this unusual film? It opens tomorrow, Friday, December 5, at the Made in New York Media Center by IFP (30 John Street in DUMBO, Brooklyn) for a one-week run. You can procure tickets and/or directions by clicking either of the links preceding.

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