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GARMENTO (director/writer/producer: Michele Maher; cinematographer: Mark Schwartzbard; editor: Andrew Malenda; music: Ed Tomney; cast: Katie MacNichol (Grindy Malone), David Thornton (Ronnie Grossman), Juan Carlos Hernández (Poncho Ramirez), Saundra Santiago (Franca Fortuna), Jerry Grayson (Ira Gold), Gretchen Cleevely (Rimi Stone), Matt Servitto (Louie Purdaro), Jason Butler Harner (Jasper Judson), Kevin Geer (Jack), Joey Kern (Tye), Kevin Sussman (Caesar), Geoffrey Cantor (Fred); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; Spanish Moss Productions; 2002)
Maher in her debut as a director/writer does a good job showing why garmento is a derogatory term for the industry that has such a checkered past.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Garmento is a cynical spoof of the Seventh Avenue fashion world. It’s more bitter than funny, as it makes light of the motto “You are what you wear” and plays up how greed drives the industry. It follows the heroine Grindy Malone (Katie MacNichol) as a youngster in 1978 begging her reluctant mom to buy the expensive popular Poncho Jeans–whose ad campaign motto reads: “Peel off my Ponchos.” We fast forward 15 years and an adult Grindy surprisingly lands a dream job as the CEO’s assistant at Poncho Ramirez’s on the decline designer house. The joke is that Poncho Ramirez (Juan Carlos Hernández) is a vain, airhead, pansy surrounded by like-minded stereotypical gay workers. Also, that he arrogantly believes he can dictate fashion. His padded-cup underwear doesn’t sell to the mall crowd, and vexed CEO Ronnie Grossman (David Thornton) engineers a deal with a shady operator of the cheap Romeo Jeans–Ira Gold (Jerry Grayson) — in order to save the firm from bankruptcy. Ira is desperate to hookup with the Poncho name, and he brings to the table his crass business skills to sell the product. He also brings with him his sleazy relative Lou (Servitto) to be head of the sales operation.

The seemingly innocent Grindy changes on-the-dime after she gets a hot makeover from being a dowdy and begins to roll with the powers-to-be as she becomes a dicey operator involved in a number of scams including a scheme to counterfeit her own firm’s jeans. With the motto “The key to happiness is money” driving everyone in the firm, things suddenly turn dirty among those who cater to the beautiful people. What intrigues everyone at the firm is the upcoming IPO offering and their chance to become rolling in dough with stock options. But the launching of the IPO is dependent on four good quarterly reports of high sales from their new product. The IPO is fueled by a revival of Poncho’s late ’70s jeans, but this time the backside logo is abbreviated to read PR. This upsets the swishy designer, who throws a mini-temper tantrum declaring “I don’t abbreviate.” There’s also a sexually provocative ad campaign launched by Poncho’s loyal business executive Franca (Saundra Santiago), that backfires with bad publicity and causes business complications. Soon even the need to put out a good product fades, as greed becomes overwhelming and backstabbing and corruption become the norm.

Director Michele Maher should know the fashion deal, she once worked for Calvin (those kiddie porn ads featured in the film are a spoof of Klein’s notorious “heroin chic” jean ads). I don’t question her insider take on the industry, and I’m not surprised about how phony the garment business is. But that seems too obvious to make such a big deal about uncovering. I would have preferred more laffs for my walk through of the garment district, and more character development. There were too many characters who came in and out of the story, making it difficult to keep track of them. But, even though it sets no rage in movie fashions, as its satire has already been well-cooked over, nevertheless Maher in her debut as a director/writer does a good job showing why garmento is a derogatory term for the industry that has such a checkered past.

REVIEWED ON 9/26/2003 GRADE: B –

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”