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In Brief: "Palmetto" and "The Real Blonde"

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Palmetto is an unconvincing, paint-by-numbers pass at American noir by the usually ambitious German director Volker Schlondorff (The Tin Drum). The components of the disaster include Schlondorff’s inability to get an adequate star performance out of an unfocused Woody Harrelson; his inducing Elisabeth Shue to caricature herself as a femme fatale who emits steam from every pore of her body; his arranging for characters to act stupidly in order to further the plot; and his attempt to excite the audience with such crudities as a vat of flesh-melting acid into which one character falls by accident. . . . Stupidity is also an issue in the independent film The Real Blonde, in which everyone seems to have suffered an IQ slippage of some 40 points. The writer-director Tom DiCillo had a great idea for a movie -- a sexual roundelay set among young models and actors in New York. The Real Blonde undresses quite a few people, but the picture is so dully written and uncertainly directed that the audience is left wondering whether the stentorian clichés coming out of the characters’ mouths are meant satirically or simply represent DiCillo’s idea of how people talk. If the latter, why make a movie about such a collection of simps? The audience can’t possibly enjoy the sight of Matthew Modine floundering around as a failed actor who doesn’t seem to know what he wants to do with himself from one second to the next. In such a case, empathy gives way to irritation. The other victims of DiCillo’s miscalculations include Catherine Keener, Daryl Hannah, Maxwell Caulfield, Bridgette Wilson, and, as a hypocritical loudmouth agent, a stridently unfunny Kathleen Turner.


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