Movie review: 'Girls Will Be Girls'

MoviesEntertainmentMinority GroupsRichard DayBarbra StreisandJohn WatersGloria Swanson

2-1/2 stars (out of 4)

Camp, in movie terms, is something so bad it's good.

A large chunk of legendarily campy films-"Show Girls," "Mahogany" and nearly everything starring Barbra Streisand-are unblinkingly serious films that can be a hoot, given the right company and cocktails.

But there are a select few movies-"Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and John Waters' oeuvre-belonging to a rare breed of camp films "in" on their own joke. "Girls Will Be Girls," the directorial debut of writer/director Richard Day, falls squarely in the latter camp (pun intended) of self-consciously campy films.

Jack Plotnick stars in drag as Evie, an aged, chronically self-obsessed C-movie star groping for the last 30 seconds of her 15 minutes of fame. Following the adage that there's no such thing as bad press, Evie even displays a framed newspaper clipping headlined "Yet Another DUI for Evie Harris" in her gaudy home.

Her roommates Coco and Varla (Clinton Leupp and Jeffery Roberson, also in drag) orbit around Evie's charismatic neurosis, providing verbal punching bags for her biting, hilarious tirades. When Coco makes Evie apologize for saying that Varla's mother committed suicide, she rephrases it, "Oh, I'm sorry-'passed herself away.'"

It's not a new formula, but an effective one-think of it as "The Golden Girls" battling a 5 o'clock shadow.

Now, all the characters are women here, not transvestite men, not gay men in drag, which adds to the camp value. Plotnick, best known for his turn in "Down with Love" and a fanboy journalist smitten with Ian McKellan in "Gods and Monsters," turns in a career-topping performance as Evie. Like Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard," Plotnick's booze-soaked prima donna bounds off the screen, decadent and deliciously spiteful in his hands.

But as an intentionally campy film, "Girls Will Be Girls" dips a cinematic toe into shark-infested waters. Not only must it operate on several levels-making us care for deeply flawed characters and laugh at their bitter lashings-it also has to carry a cohesive story arc. On this count, "Girls Will Be Girls" fizzles a bit.

While Day doesn't succeed in making us empathize with anyone on screen, he makes his characters definitely watchable and his dialogue crackles. Cut into vignettes with on-screen chapter headings, Day's film follows Evie's struggle to regain the limelight, which lags behind small-town girl Varla's own budding stardom. Leupp, as Coco, provides the most empathetic character, but gets saddled with abortion jokes sure to offend people on both sides of the issue. Though "Girls Will Be Girls" sags towards the end, until then it's a fresh little campfire.

"Girls Will Be Girls"
Directed and written by Richard Day; photographed by Nicholas Hutak; production design by Shannon Schwiebert; edited by Chris Conlee; produced by Richard Ahren and Michael Warwick. An IFC Films release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:19.
MPAA rating: R for sexuality, language and drug content.
Evie - Jack Plotnick
Coco - Clinton Leupp
Varla/Marla - Jeffery Roberson
Stevie - Ron Mathews

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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MoviesEntertainmentMinority GroupsRichard DayBarbra StreisandJohn WatersGloria Swanson
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