MOVIE REVIEW : 'White Trash': Tough Life on the Street

TIMES STAFF WRITER

"White Trash" is such a terrific title for a weekend midnight movie that it's a shame the film doesn't really live up to its name. The problem is that this sad saga of West Hollywood street hustlers, which begins an indefinite midnight run tonight at the Vista and plays Saturdays at the same time at the Royal, betrays its theatrical origins at every turn.

When producer-director Fred Baker, in filming Mel Clay's script of his own play, moves outside its primary apartment setting or cuts to flashbacks, the film threatens to come alive. But its people talk endlessly and monotonously, creating an artificial effect on the screen because it's not credible that these individuals would be so garrulous, let alone so articulate.

Worse yet, the more they talk the less interesting they become, which makes us wonder why we should be concerned about their fates. In short, "White Trash" is the familiar instance of a play that has not been fully developed into a viable screenplay.

"White Trash" takes place on the day after a young hustler named CC (Brian Patrick) has died of AIDS. Like him, his pals Casino (John Hartman), Rio (Sean Christiansen) and girlfriend Rita (Periel Marr), pregnant with his child, are all street prostitutes caught up in high-risk sex and drug-taking.

Indeed, they feel the need to get high in order to get through CC's funeral, for which CC's rich father (Jack Betts) and elegant sister (Winnie Thexton), who do not know the cause of CC's death or the manner in which he has been supporting himself, have flown in from New Jersey to attend.

None of these individuals are in the least involving, and CC's friends all look far too healthy and wholesome for their hard lifestyle; indeed, they are too good-looking to have to work the streets. "White Trash" doesn't show its young fledgling actors to sufficient advantage to suggest their potential, which leaves the acting honors to the veteran Betts and to Wheaton James as their shrewd drug supplier.

Although the film is unrated, no one under 16 will be admitted because of its adult themes and blunt language. Its most noteworthy aspect is that Baker shot it in 8-millimeter video, which in turn was blown up to 35mm. Except in close-ups, the process is really too fuzzy, but with technical advances there is promise in this cost-saving process.

'White Trash'

John Hartman: Casino

Sean Christiansen: Rio

Periel Marr: Rita

Jack Betts: Father

Winnie Thexton: Sister

Produced and released by the Fred Baker Film and Video Co. Producer-director-cinematographer-composer Fred Baker. Screenplay Mel Clay. Screenplay Clay. Editor Robert Simpson. Costumes Rikki Roberts. Production design Mary Jane Bell. Art director Steve Nelson. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.

Times-rated Mature (for language, adult themes, scenes of drug-taking).

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