The swirl of bad girl shenanigans, Hollywood satire and noir-ish melodrama in "Mini's First Time" that was intended to make for an icy cocktail of prurience and moral insight tastes more like freezer burn instead.
It's ostensibly a dark comedy of negligent parenting that turns the smirky, sexually adventurous teen daughter (Nikki Reed) of a coked-up, never-was actress (Carrie-Anne Moss) into a conspiring playmate for her vengeance-seeking stepfather (Alec Baldwin).
But it more often exposes the laziness of writer-director Nick Guthe, who is all influences -- "American Beauty," "Lolita," "The Opposite of Sex," James M. Cain novels -- and little originality. The first half-hour is wackadoodle enough in its high-gloss, low-taste scene-setting to suggest an Adrian Lyne-directed "Mean Girls." That's because among the "firsts" that Mini wants to try -- new experience is her mantra -- is, naturally, prostitution. (Only a movie like this could think the world's oldest professional cliche, women playing hookers, feels like a first.) But when her debut john turns out to be Baldwin's character, a plot is hatched to drive his wife, Mini's mom, around the bend, with tragic results.
Eventually, a dogged detective (Luke Wilson) starts sniffing around, and a movie whose only hope had been camp classic becomes poisonously dull, as scheme unravelings often do in these types of tales. The actors' lot is one of unfortunate misuse. Reed may have cornered a segment of the market on lipsticked sirenhood after "Thirteen," but blown up to lead size, she's no Barbara Stanwyck. And tamping down a felicitously devilish actor like Baldwin just seems criminal.
But Guthe doesn't even grasp that Moss -- getting some solidly cutting laughs from her embittered pleasure seeker -- is his most interesting creation, worthy of a full-fledged satire of ill-advised mothering. The movie never recovers from her ignominious (and disturbingly cruel) exit. Then it just falls back into the kind of snap-on Beverly Hills culture cynicism that, unlike what the title implies, feels like the 116th time.
'Mini's First Time'
MPAA rating: R for strong sexual content, language, drug use and a scene of violence.
A First Independent Pictures release. Writer-director Nick Guthe. Producers Kevin Spacey, Dana Brunetti, Edward Bass, Evan Astrowsky. Director of photography Daniel Stoloff. Editor Michael Ruscio. Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.
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