TRIXIE(director/writer: Alan Rudolph; screenwriter: from a story by John Binder & Rudolph; cinematographer: Jan Kiesser; editor: Michael Ruscio; cast: Emily Watson (Trixie Zurbo), Dermot Mulroney (Dex Lang), Nick Nolte (Senator Drummond Avery), Nathan Lane (Kirk Stans), Brittany Murphy (Ruby Pearli), Lesley Ann Warren (Dawn Sloane), Will Patton (Red Rafferty); Runtime: 115; Sony Pictures Classics; 2000)
“The film was mildly enjoyable, but could have been much better if Rudolph tried to put a coherent story together instead of just going for so much cheap comedy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Offbeat film director Alan Rudolph (Choose Me) makes films for the few who have acquired a taste for his brand of humor. In this fluff piece which the director calls a “screwball noir,” it suffers mostly because its mixture of being a formulaic noir tale and a comic farce is overtaken by its poor plot. It perks up at times because of the charming performances by all concerned and the constant barrage of wacky dialogue.
Trixie (Emily Watson) is a simple-minded square espousing innocence with her wide-eyes, but by her constant misuse of language through the use of malapropisms she becomes a comic figure. She came from Chicago to be an undercover lakeside resort casino security guard in the Pacific Northwest.
Through Trixie’s overnight casino job her dull life becomes adventurous because of the characters she meets.
Trixie befriends a lounge comic Kirk (Nathan Lane), who offers her platonic-paternal counseling. His shopworn act of imitating celebrities’ well-known sayings, is the pits.
The one who changes her life the most is Dex (Dermot Mulroney), a young bumbling Romeo who picks her up in the casino and arouses the young virgin’s sexual interest.
Through Dex, Trixie meets Dawn (Lesley Anne Warren), a kept woman enamored by her own sexiness though not particularly liking sex. On top of that, she is a pill-popping, mediocre pop-country singer.
Red Rafferty (Will Patton) is a sleazy real estate developer and a small time gangster, who keeps Dawn as his mistress and keeps Dex as his lackey attendant.
The femme fatale role falls to the spurned lover of Dex, the one who had his child, barfly Ruby (Brittany Murphy).
Senator Drummond Avery (Nolte) is the incarnation of a white-maned politician who is both lecherous and corrupt. He is the partner of Red in debauchery and in smelly land deals; and, he is in the habit of excusing his indiscretions by pointing out other politicians who had affairs on the side, like Ike and FDR, and how that didn’t prevent them from doing their job.
The film starts off in an amusingly pleasant way as Trixie’s banter is laced with continuous malapropisms such as, ‘By hook or ladder,’ ‘He smokes like a fish,’ and ‘Nobody is human.’ But this one-joke idea of a film soon starts to wear thin and the laughs become harder to get, as her malapropisms come with every sentence she utters and eventually it brings the film down.
The film’s strongest scene is set on Red’s boat, where violence and a possible forced orgy clouds the pleasure cruise. It culminates in Trixie attacking Red for pinching her and of Dex coming to her aid, and of them getting kicked off the boat by the hired thugs Red employs.
When Dawn disappears Trixie tracks her down and learns of a videotape she has of a sexually incriminating act, which she has hidden and is using as a means of blackmail. After Trixie locates the tape, Dawn is thrown out of the hotel window and Trixie decides that she must solve the murder. To do this, she joins the martini drinking senator in the upscale restaurant he frequents. Unfortunately, the murder mystery proves not to be that interesting.
This is an actor’s picture, where they are given every chance to do their thing, even if it results in over-acting. Emily Watson is featured in every scene and makes the best of what she’s given to work with. Nick Nolte hams it up and unmercifully chews-the-scenery whenever he can, especially when ranting about his impoverished childhood and the peccadilloes of other politicians. The film was mildly enjoyable, but could have been much better if Rudolph tried to put a coherent story together instead of just going for so much cheap comedy.
REVIEWED ON 1/30/2001 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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