Monday, July 04, 2011

Ken Russell has like reinvented the post-it!

(Above) The tiny empire waists strike back-MUST see payback penultimate scene from R&MHR.

(R&MHR final scene)

"The glamorous, vulnerable and “totally cutting-edge” duo Romy and Michele, played by Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow, those inseparable flatmates bound for their high-school reunion with exaggerated resumés and loveable optimism. No, I haven’t miscounted. It’s a tribute to their ability to complement each other’s performance that their double act in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997) makes them unforgettably one."
-Ken Russell, London Times 2007

Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion is one of Ken Russell's top ten favourite films. As he's a human monument to high art, obscure references (references that grow ever more obscure as the world dumbs ever downer) and is a creative genius this choice comes out of left field to many. Ken has seen over 75 years worth of films thus I have no doubt that many of his most loyal fans don't really believe he'd embrace a big budget, 80's nostalgia film and that he's simply having us all on. What did I think when I read that?

Did not surprise me a bit.

After all, "Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion" features many key Ken Russell elements: the 40's stylized blond (Elaine Hendrix), young women navigating through the wilderness years (Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow), the petty Bourgeoisie exposed (the reunion scene) , a Gay actor refreshingly cast as straight (Alan Cumming) and of course a well choreographed modern ballet dance!

Notice something? The words "silver makeup", "giant throbbing phallus" or "Nazi strumpet" are not mentioned. Ken Russell is all things folks.

The dialogue is wonderful in how it proudly celebrates self deprecation and honesty which a film like Adam Sandler's recent "Just Go With It" failed to do. Sandler, Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Aniston**-all very talented-were so self conscious about looking hot and being really, really funny that there were no surprises, no human element essential to all great comedy films and even the C word spewing Derek and Clive recordings. Sandler filled in the void with tired, lame racist humour, Hollywood infommercial abs and little kids with REALLY abysmal cockney accents.

"Chunderooney" as they say in the East End.

Ken is spot on when he likens the Kudrow and Sorvino acting to "one" entity. Indeed, each acts as the others "that little voice" which we all have inside our heads. Full Metal Jacket and the duality of man? No, ask Jung about Romy and Michelle instead. In Ken's gloriously sensual pro-female empowerment film, The Rainbow lead Ursula Brangwen (Sammi Davis) longs for Winifred Inger (uber fox Amanda Donohue) to be Michelle to her Romy. But alas, Winfred is strictly a "with benefits" type of friend even vying for the title of sexiest "frenemy" in film history.
(Amanda Donohue in The Rainbow)

The scenes in RMHR towards the films end where people's true feelings and (gasp!) , their actual incomes and marital standing is revealed don't make the viewer laugh haughtily for too long. Those scenes are more of a documentary, one that everyone can admit to relating to. As the snotty popular crowd is taken down to soccer mom rubble with nothing more than the simple truth and self worth in the form of "I don't give a flying fuck what you think" we all have a cinematic example of how to save ourselves a hundred grand in therapy. Rewind the three minute scene multiple times and you'll see what I mean.

As for the film's axis of evil, Christie Masters (played brilliantly by Julia Campbell) she walks the earth off screen to this day as Lauren Joness, my arch enemy in secondary school (what we yanks call "middle" or "Junior" high). You dream of putting someone like Lauren Joness in a pit with Jules Burchill* and giving the latter a rusty pen knife and an eight ball of miaow-miaow but even that does not suffice in personal satisfaction.

Quite possibly the most vile human I've ever encountered, as young as 12 years old, Lauren, a new comer to the tony town of my childhood, lived to torment her peers who had less money and weaker social standing; picking them apart with the sort of uncalled for brutality that Hermann Göring would have respected. One Spring day Lauren dropped a few really foul names my way and within a split second her eye was blackened with every ounce of Berkeley anti-establishment power I could pack into my 12 year old fist. I believe she later became a débutante in high school ironically due the fact I wouldn't deign to "tell on her." Her pleading that she'd "be beaten" by her father if she were "ever suspended" because it could give her a "bad record" made me shed a tear for her. As evidenced by Romy and Michele, the kids on the bottom of the school hierarchy are the one's with the hearts that actually function.

After moving away I kept up with Lauren's "adventures" which included (surprise) becoming even nastier. Last I heard she'd married young, had children and was wearing pearls around her neck in her Facebook profile pic. And soon, if all goes well with the latest bit of "magic", a throbbing 20 foot white phallus like worm with silver eye makeup and an iron cross between it's eyes.

(Molly Russell and Christopher Gables in "The Rainbow")

*Jules Burchill, a Janeane Garofalo tribute act if there ever was one. A high compliment by the way!

** Janeane Garofalo's character in the film continually torments a cowboy, Jason Theroux, who today is now Jennifer Aniston's handsome boyfriend.

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Blogger grace said...

I loved Romy and Michelle High School Renunion!

4:06 AM  
Blogger par.nordstrom said...

Yes yes yes, phenomenal post , Amanda ! I just LUV when ye write abt yer childhood/adolescence! I suggest ye start on a collection of short stories rite away !/ Meself was also rather vicious in middle school & was constantly fahtin from age 11 up to abt 16. And bloody battles dey were, indeed !Then I started usin words to knock people down , even more efficient , in fact.../
ps. re-watched ´Castaway ´ wid Ollie & Amanda Donohue last nite , Donohues stunningly beaut in dat one . ( ´Werry Wankworthy´ ( sorry ! ) like a friend of mine used to say.)Wish we could´ve watched it together . Da MOVIE, I mean...ha ha ha (:

6:21 AM  

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