Thursday, January 31, 2008

Remembering 100 Girls

While the recent film Shoot Em Up wasn't even close to being the greatest movie released in 2007, it did show a lot of polish and promise for the work of Michael Davis.

When I first noticed his name in the credits, I almost did a double take, as I had been a long time fan of one of his earlier movies, 100 Girls, which was released in 2000.

And after being reminded of that earlier movie, I decided to watch it once more... and suddenly all of its flaws became apparent. It was clearly a movie I had outgrown. However, I still thought it was worthy of discussion because of some of the elements involved. Also, in seeing the flaws, I think it shows that I may be maturing as a movie viewer. So this, unlike many of my previous Remembering columns, will not be a fond recollection, but rather, more a cutting rebuke of something that I once loved.

I would almost consider this my farewell letter to the movie, as it was a rocky breakup.

100 Girls is the story of Matthew(Jonathan Tucker), a college freshman who also works as a handyman around campus. At the beginning of the narrative, he ends up getting stuck in an elevator during a blackout with a girl whose face he never sees, and as they get to know each other through the night, he begins to fall in love with her and believe that she is, in his own words, his kismetic destiny and by the end of the night, the two have had sex and in the morning he wakes up alone with very few clues as to who she really is, and a mystery to solve: who was that girl that so enraptured his heart?

The problem is, that elevator just happened to be at the women's dorm, and poor Matthew is left with the arduous task of trying to determine which of the 100 Girls who live there is the one that he loves.

Of course, as members of the audience, well, we do sort of get a set of cliff notes, because while there are indeed 100 girls living in that dorm, well, we only have to concentrate on about five because they are both better known actresses (in the context of this movie) and they actually have some semblance of plotting around them, even though they are pretty much stock characters in this drama as well. I am not going to wreck the movie by disclosing too many key details, but there are things that I can address without giving too much away.

And I am not just pulling this out of nowhere because in some versions of the credits, they are actually referred to in this format Name the [Character Type].

So here is who ends up being the possible choices for Matthew in his quest to find his kismetic destiny:

Promiscuous Patty, played by Emmanuelle Chriqui, who also appeared as a missed connection in her next movie, the thankfully forgettable On the Line with a pre-outed Lance Bass as her romantic pursuer.

Arlene the Tomboy played by Katherine Heigl, who is getting quite adept at playing a certain type of role nowadays both on and off screen, so she is becoming quite the method actress. That or her true colors are showing.

Wendy the Girl Next Door played by Larisa Oleynik, from both Ten Things I Hate About You and 3rd Rock from the Sun and who most recently appeared in the aptly titled movie, Relative Obscurity. I kid... she attended college for real and graduated, so she has a reason for not doing a lot of work for a couple of years.

Dora the Smart Girl(though "Ugly" comes up too) played by Scientologist, wife of Beck and fraternal twin to a dude named Giovanni, Marisa Ribisi. After yesterday, you know that the first part of the description of the actress is the true insult.

And last but not least, there is Sexy Cynthia played by My Name is Earl's Jaime Pressly, who is turning playing white trash into an artform.

Now, let's think about this for a second. After looking at the above list and thinking about the task that Matthew faces... well, it doesn't seem that hard, does it? I mean, the basis of his love was borne both of an emotional connection engendered by conversation and a physical liaison. Now I don't know about you, but even in the dark, if I had to rely on touch and my ears to narrow things down in such a situation, I think I could tell the difference between those five people. Of course, thinking about things in the real world, I think if I was having a conversation with a member of the opposite sex in a pitch black elevator and it was going exceedingly well, there would be a moment where I said something like, oh I don't know, "Hi, my name is Matt". But then, if the movie Matthew did that, well, then there would be no movie.

And when I first saw the movie, well, I didn't really question the methodology of the search, but in retrospect, it is sort of creepy. You see, one of the souvenirs that Matthew got from his tryst was a pair of panties, and he thought the best way to find the girl was to match those panties with a particular bra, which meant that he went through a lot of drawers.

Of course, not only is that questionable reasoning, but going through the underthings of a bunch of strangers and the one person you do have carnal knowledge of is just skeezy. And after that fails to get results(even with the help of a resident of said dorm), he then resorts to one of the lamest though widely used movie techniques to try to gain the confidence of a seemingly secretive group.

He dresses up like a woman. So let me get this straight... he's been hanging around the dorm as a guy for weeks and weeks, and almost everyone there has talked to him for a significant amount of time, and one night this strange girl named Francesca shows up who looks exactly like him, and yet, no one says anything about it even as he/she interacts with them. I mean, he repeatedly goes out in that get up and at one point even his male roommate hits on him, and then later lies about sleeping with Francesca. Now I could see if he happened to be wearing a bunch of prosthetics and rubber and such, but he wasn't... it was just him in a dress, a padded bra, a bad wig and some less than sensible shoes. Yeah, I'd love to hear a story of something like this fooling anyone in real life.

So that is two strikes in the logic department for this movie. But even when I saw these fundamental flaws in the film, there was still something that kept me coming back.

You see, as Matthew undertakes his quest to find his mystery lover, he also starts along a path of philosophical discovery about the nature of relationships between men and women and he came to some conclusions, which when I was 23 were stunning, but at 31 are rather pedestrian.

So while he is getting to know all these girls he sometimes comes to realizations like this: "There are no clearly defined rules between men and women. So, each side thinks they're playing fair and each side thinks they're being cheated. Maybe, this is why men and women have the innate ability to bring out the poison in one another." Or the main character finding a correlation between the way men and women shop and the way they choose sex partners. That's some real groundbreaking stuff. And of course, no movie in 2000 would have been complete without lifting something seemingly philosophical from Fight Club, and of course, and 100 Girls is no exception (a tiff that is basically a rehash of "We're a generation of men raised by women"). So again, in hindsight it isn't bringing anything new to the table, and in fact, as I watched it recently, almost every line of dialogue seems forced and unnatural, and not in that hip way. It just isn't cutting it.

And after watching the movie again, it made me laugh thinking about Katherine Heigl's comments about Knocked Up being a little sexist... when she was featured prominently in 100 Girls which is almost the epitome of being sexist while trying to appear that not to be. It is like she doesn't remember making this movie, or some of the scenes she was in. Before I became disenchanted with the film, I used to call it a romantic comedy geared towards guys, because despite the fact that nearly the entire cast is female, well, one guy wrote all those parts. Now I am not saying that a man can't write convincing dialogue for women, because the history of cinema is chock full of people who did just that. What I am saying is the man who wrote the script for the Double Dragon movie was still had a few things to learn about it in 2000, and well, he didn't seem to pick up anything new by the time he wrote and directed a 2002 movie that while not being a sequel at all, you would be hard pressed to figure that out from the title. It was called 100 Women, and it is a horrible, horrible movie that makes 100 Girls look like a Nick Hornby novel.

So in the end, what 100 Girls really accomplishes is simple. It makes Shoot Em Up look like a bloody masterpiece, because in comparison, that's what it is. Action and snappy one liners seem to be more Davis' strength than romance and pseudoteen angst ever were. When I used to review albums from groups that showed promise, I used to say that I was looking forward to seeing what they did on their next release and I can honestly say that I do indeed want to know if Michael Davis is going to continue honing his craft as an action director or if he is going to subject the world to another romantic comedy. I hope it is the former, I really do.


Megan said...

Well hell. I haven't seen this movie, and now I don't want to, and yet I can't comment effectively until I have.

Now what??

MC said...

Well, the fact that I may have dissuaded you from watching it means my work is done.

Bart said...

How could you forget that Marisa Ribisi was in Dazed and Confused. That red womanfro...

MC said...

Oh, I certainly didn't forgot the fire afro. I don't think anyone will... that thing was probably visible from space.