Jaded (1996) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna
|Scoop's notes in white:
Be careful what you pretend to be, the old saying goes, because it may be what you become. So what happens if you pretend to be everything?
This movie wants to be an ABC afterschool special on the gender inequality in the laws. It wants to be a titillation movie. It wants to be a detective story. It wants to be a psycho-sexual mystery. It wants to be a drama. At times it wants to be a comedy. It succeeds at absolutely nothing.
It fails as an educational film on sexual assault because it has no grounding in reality. Carla Gugino plays a woman who is sexually assaulted by two other women. The DA tells her that they can't prosecute for rape because women aren't covered under the statute.
The DA informs her that they can prosecute under that state's "sodomy" statute, which is exactly the same level of felony and carries exactly the same penalty, whereupon Gugino whines and snivels about how the law is unfair, because she was raped, and they should be prosecuted for rape. At this point we needed Chandler from Friends to step in and say "and the word is important because ......?"
I guess she just thought that it was, like, way hipper and totally cooler to be a rape victim than a sodomy victim. Or something.
It fails as a psychological mystery because nothing that anyone does ever makes sense. Gugino really wants the two women prosecuted, but completely refuses to co-operate with the D.A. She's been in town for six months, won't tell anybody her real name or where she came from. For all the DA knows, she's just some woman who goes from town to town accusing people of rape.
It has no prayer as a detective story. I mean it has no clue at all. I am not making the following up. The dilemma is that the girls claim Gugino wanted rough sex. Gugino claims she was assulted unwillingly. Here's how the movie resolves the conflict. Ten minutes before the movie ends, Gugino "suddenly remembers" that there was somebody else there filming it! Then, after an exhaustive and fruitless search of the premises of the three suspects (there was a male accomplice - he did the filming), the detective finds the tape. Guess where it was? Give up? It was in the VCR. Now wouldn't you think that the forensics guys, search warrant in hand and looking specifically for a video tape, might have tried the VCR? And wouldn't you think that the criminals, who had weeks to cover their tracks, might have at least hidden the tape of them committing a major felony? (He did think it was taped over with a baseball game, but certainly he would have careful enough to check with something that important.)
Luckily the Sherlock Holmes detective zeroed right in on it - spying the VCR by accident just as she was leaving, and just figuring "what the hell .. "!
And then there's the bartender's property. A bartender (He's the guy who filmed the rape, but at this point in the story he is not involved or suspected in any way) is trying to sell something. The female defense attorney overhears it. She asks what. He says a cabin with grandfathered hunting rights. She has her investigator check it out, and it proves to be a lie. We never find out why he lied. We never find out why she thought it was important. We never find out what he was really selling, or why it was important to the plot. Pretty good stuff, eh? I was just sitting there thinking "what the f ...?"
So how does it do as a drama? Well, I think this exchange of dialogue will tell you.
Female detective: Sir, a women was taken out of this bar last night and raped brutally.
Owner/Bartender: (doing an Elvis impersonation) Well, I didn't do it.
Yup, there's some real gritty Eugene O'Neill naturalism right there. I know some pretty insensitive people. Shit, I am one. But nobody I know, not even me, would do some cutesy schtick when talking to the police about a brutal rape in which he was at least a material witness.
Oh, and I won't even mention Gugino's would-be boyfriend who hangs out outside her house and plays sad saxophone solos. Yes I will. I just did.
So is it a comedy? There are a few funny moments provided by Christopher McDonald as the Elvis-obsessed bartender, but how many chuckles can you get out of that when the rest of the movie is about how Gugino was cut up internally and externally with a wine bottle? The humor didn't come off as comic relief, but rather as bad taste, especially given the fact that McDonald turned out to be an accomplice in the sexual assault.
Perhaps it is an exploitation movie? Aha! Now we are approaching reality. Although the scene on the beach (skinny-dipping followed by the rape) is too dark to see much, the three women are really naked, and the occasional glimpses are powerful. Gugino's two well-lit scenes, a shower and the morning after, are typical scenes from sensationalist movies, and are in good light. In other words, this is the one and only reason to watch this movie, and it might sway you if you like Carla. Be advised, however, that she is covered with cuts and bruises, and/or being raped in all these scenes, so it really isn't intended to be a turn-on.
If it had no nudity, it would be one of the worst movies ever made, with nothing at all to recommend it.
It does have the nudity so it is minimally acceptable if viewed as a titillation film.
Tuna's thoughts in yellow:
Jaded (1996) is a low budget film about a woman who is "raped" by two other women, and is chiefly known for the nude appearance of Carla Gugino as the victim. The film is not well respected. The most common criticism was that the film ended abruptly without the courtroom battle that everyone expected. People also complain about loose ends, saying that they knew enough to guess what happened, but they were not spoon-fed the answers. Call me strange, but I liked both of those things about this film.
This was the first courtroom drama I have ever seen that never went into the courtroom. In a more typical film, you spend a lot of the running time in a single room with most of the characters sitting down, and listen to lawyers and witnesses talk. These scenes would almost be better on radio (anyone who remembers The Shadow knows what I mean). This story has investigating officers, a prosecutor, a defense attorney, questioning, swing of evidence, and surprises, just like a courtroom drama, but they all happen pre-trial.
Gugino is found naked and beaten on the beach. She accuses Pat and Alex of raping her. First surprise, Pat and Alex are women. There is little doubt that what happened to Meg (Gugino) was not something even a masochist would have wanted, but Pat (Rya Kihlstedt) and Alex (Anna Thomson) claim it was consensual sex. We learn a lot about Meg, including information damaging to the prosecution. The final development was finding a video tape of part of the obvious crime. Cut to post trial. I don't see what everyone was upset about. Given a video tape that clearly showed the two accused women committing the crime, there could only have been one outcome. Showing the trial would have been redundant.
There was some attention paid to the fact that, at the time in that state, only men could commit a crime called "rape", and the two women had to be charged with the words "felony sodomy". There was also a lesbian character who had been molested by Pat, but knew that a lesbian had no chance of getting her convicted. This is a women's film, directed and written by Caryn Krooth. I would have liked more character development from other characters, because Meg is the only one we know a lot about, but I found the performances strong.
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