Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ten Statements About....JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS (2001)

It is three hot girls (well, two hot girls and Tara Reid) washing
a car.  Your argument is no longer valid.
"And when the going gets tough--"
"The tough make lemonade!"

1) You want to know just how unintentionally wonderful I find this film? It's the only movie where I enjoy the presence of my ex Tara Reid (It's a long story I don't wish to talk about...but let's just say everyone knows you never give a dog chocolate...). The role of Melody is perfectly suited for her vapid, empty headed persona, and her presence here enhances the film.

(Still doesn't mean I didn't cheer on Carson Daly when he tried to bludgeon Reid to death with a baseball bat....)

2) I think one of the key things that makes the script by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan work is how it embraces the pitfalls of its remit and forces them to work for them. By making the entire film a satire of product placement and the nature of pop music circa 2001, it makes the product placement carpet bombing of the film an integral part of the film's joke.

What's shinier--the CD case, or Alan Cummings' complexion?
3) Every great film needs a great villain--and while an argument could be made for Parker Posey's Fiona as said villain, my favorite is Alan Cummings' Wyatt Frame. Everything about this character, from his usage of famous song lyrics as the names of his nefarious plans to his oily appearance to his strange malapropism, embodies everything I love about Cummings as a performer. Both he and Posey are so perfectly placed in this insane microcosm of a world the film builds that I'm always disappointed when we get to their climatic reveals in the third act.

4) For a movie that should be cynical, even mean, in its conception and narrative--we are talking about a film which has product placement and talk of merchandising its heroines built in--it's surprisingly sweet and gentle thanks primarily to the central three performances. I don't know if Reid, Rosario Dawson and Rachel Leigh Cook knew each other before being in the movie or spent a lot of time together during pre-production, but their friendship feels very real throughout, and its their chemistry and affection that keeps the film from descending into cold, mercenary calculation.

5) I give respect to Elfont and Kaplan for not only breaking the fourth wall, but driving a big wrecking ball right through it...but they wisely establish this early and pick and choose those moments well so that the gags--like when Missi Pyle answers her brother's question about what she's doing here by claiming she was in the comic book, or when the film calls attention to the unlikeliness of the band's meteoric rise in one week--don't jar at all.

6) If there is a weakness in the central trio, it may be the presence of Rachel Leigh Cook as Josie. It's not that she isn't good--she is--but that she tends to be overshadowed by her two co-stars. Cook in particular seems to pale a little whenever she's on-screen with Rosario Dawson's Valerie, who just has a level of charisma she just doesn't have. I admit that the red dye job is also pretty distracting, as its so obviously a dye job, and it seems to emphasize her, ummm, generous chin.

7) This film would have collapsed in a second if the music was lackluster--and thankfully, this probably has one of the greatest collection of power pop songs written for a fictitious band since The Monkees. Written by a raft of power pop luminaries including my beloved Fountain of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger, the luscious former frontwoman of Letters To Cleo Kay Hanley (who provided the vocals for Cook) and others, they're perfect lil' nuggets of tuneage and seem exactly like the kind of songs three girls from a small town would write if they're trying to write pop songs.
This is the only film where product placement actually works...

8) You know, for a film that's supposed to be a frothy, silly little comedy, it manages to create a coherent world--and sticks to it. Elfont and Kaplan create this wonderfully subversive history about this conspiracy to control the minds of teenagers and never violates that history for the sake of a gag. Hell, they manage to make the exposition moment explaining all this into one of the funniest sequences of the film thanks to Fiona's presentation of the Eugene Levy hosted presentation film.

9) Now this is the type of film where montages are expected, and there are loads of them. But the genius of these montages is how Elfont and Kaplan work to make each one a little different and distinct--not just through the music, but though the settings, the cutting, and even the storytelling. I was particularly taken with 'Pretend To Be Nice,' which illustrates our heroine's rise to popularity by having them literally climb a giant Billboard chart.

10) I have only mentioned Parker Posey in passing, and part of the reason is that her role is a bit problematic. Yes, she's gorgeous as always, and yes, she has one of my favorite moments in the entire film....but there are frequent moments where she's so over the top she ceases becoming a parody and becomes something of an embarassment, and the subplot that involves her lisping like a duck when stressed just comes off as odd. She doesn't kill the film--far from it--but she is responsible for some of the rare sour notes.

Overall...I continue to marvel at how much affection I have for this, a film that should represent everything I hate about modern movie making...but I do, thanks to its inherent sweetness and surprising cleverness in how it takes on its remit. Don't let its rep as a bomb scare you away!

Oh, and here's some proof that the music rocks....

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