An Editorial Note:Just so there’s no confusion, this is the Britney Spears Crossroads, not the other Crossroads about a musician who sells their soul to the Devil for earthly success, only to pay a heavy, tragic…hey, wait a minute!
But I kid.That Crossroads (1986) starred Karate Kid Ralph Macchio and featured blues music that popped. This Crossroads stars karaoke kid Britney Spears and featured pop music that blew.
Presumably due to their profound psychological problems—mainly layers of radical narcissism barely holding in check more deeply seated gross inferiority complexes—celebrities have traditionally sought to assuage their insecurities by seeking further success in other disciplines. Actors and sports stars try their hands at recording albums, models seek to become actors, and more pertinently to our purposes here, singers seek to become movie stars.
Occasionally some singer or other even succeeds at it. David Bowie, for instance, has failed to embarrass himself as an actor. However, for every Bowie or Cher (sometimes) or Frank Sinatra, there were a dozen crooners who epically fell on their faces. Kate Smith. Liberace. (OK, a musician instead of a singer, but still.) Tony Bennett. Bob Dylan. Donovan. Pat Boone. Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees. Sting. Neil Diamond. The Village People. Madonna. Oh, definitely Madonna.
And that doesn’t count the countless others who managed to look OK in one or two films (generally when playing characters largely based on themselves), only to then push their luck and bomb after taking further stabs at it.
Then came the perfect storm of late 2001 / early 2002, when in one six month period the country’s two most popular divas, Mariah Carey and Britney Spears, each took a swing at movie stardom. Ah, those where the days. It says something about how bad Spears was that she aced out Carey as the co-winner of the Razzies’ Worst Actress award, sharing the prize with veteran bad movie queen Madonna herself. Kind of like All About Eve, isn’t it? Still, Madonna kept her bad moviedom crown secure by not only co-winning Worst Actress, but impressively picking up Worst Supporting Actress as well, for her wincingly bad cameo appearance in the Bond flick Die Another Day.
On the other hand, Ms. Spears was smart enough, or something, to forgo further such attempts. In contrast, Ms. Carey has proven to have not learned her lesson. I mean, how could I have forgotten the warbling one’s lead role as Raychel, opposite Mira Sorvino in 2002’s WiseGirls? What about her short but canny cameo as ‘Sharp Dressed Woman’ in State Property 2? And we all, I’m sure, look forward to her work in the upcoming Tennessee, opposite such stars as Adam Rothenberg and Ethen Peck. Shockingly, though, neither Carey nor Spears has yet to match the success of Jessica Simpson’s appearance in The Dukes of Hazzard. And sadly, that’s a dead serious statement.
Like all modern movies starring female singers (Glitter, From Justin to Kelly), Crossroads revolves around a perky, independent yet vulnerable heroine who comes pre-equipped with a matching pair of Best Friends, one of whom is black and steadfast, the other slutty and flawed but who will ultimately learn an extremely valuable lesson about female-empowering friendship….
Well, actually, I haven’t started watching the movie yet, but I’m assuming.
The film opens with a trio of explosively giggling ten year-old girls off on a secret, late night escapade in the old-growth forests of rural Georgia. Here a dense, Faulknerian-level of writing is quickly established:
Girl#1:”My dad thinks I’m at your house!”
Girl #2:”My mom thinks I’m at yours!”
The youngins’ have ventured forth to bury a cardboard shoe box, one festooned with stickers and artfully scrawled cursive messages and other such girly accoutrements. Wrapping said artifact in a thin plastic bag for protection, and having excavated a hole maybe ten inches deep, they consign it to the bosom of Mother Earth.”This is fun!” Young Black Friend—told ya—gleefully exclaims. This exposition no doubt proved particularly helpful to those viewers who perhaps feared the girls were trying to tunnel their way out of a POW camp.
Because this scene is so complex and sophisticated in its action and enigmatic in its motivations, the Ms. Spears of present day provides clarification via a spectacularly stilted voiceover. “When we were ten, growing up in Georgia,” she woodenly explains, “Mimi, Kit and I knew exactly what we wanted out of life.” These goals are left unstated, but presumably they involve unicorns and marrying one of the Backstreet Boys. “We put our dreams in a box,” she continues, “and we buried it.” Along with the audience’s hopes for a good movie, presumably.
And you thought people regretted it when they opened Pandora‘s box.
Inside the package the three have consigned articles representing their deepest wishes, and they pledge to return and exhume it at midnight of the day they graduate from high school. (Do ten years-olds really have such a specific moment representing the ‘future’ in mind? And if they do, isn’t it more like when they get married, or at least get their driver licenses? I don’t know, the day I would graduate from high school wasn’t a big fantasy object for me when I was ten.)
“Let’s be best friends forever,” one girl whispers. “We will,” another replies. Here Ms. Spears resumes her narrative role. “Now, I don’t even remember what our wishes were, except for one. We wished that we’d be best friends forever.” Dramatic pause. “Well, that wish didn’t come true,” she wistfully reveals. This is presumably meant to strike a tragic note. Really, though, how many people stay eternally close to their best friends from fifth grade?
Cut to “8 Years Later.” Here we watch as a rather more, uhm, developed Britney Spears cavorts around her bedroom in a tight, midriff-baring tank top and tighter, teeny tiny pink jockey briefs that encase her equally teeny tiny butt like a sausage casing. On the other hand, we should perhaps count our blessings, considering Ms. Spears’ recent abandonment of underwear entirely.
Wanting her first film to be a success, Britney sought to put her best foot forward.
Donning a cowboy hat, she listens to and joins in singing along with Madonna’s “Open Your Heart,” using a spoon as a microphone. Invoking Madonna in one’s feature film debut seems a bit chancy—Ms. Ciccone’s visage also peers out at us from a centrally-placed wall poster—but perhaps Cthulhu had something else on his schedule that day.
Full of youthful spunk and vigor, not to mention being braless, Lucy leaps up on her bed and trampolines up and down for a while, while continuing to mime a concert performance of Madonna’s song. For which she is slightly overdressed, perhaps, but there you go. Indeed, apparently having just now fulfilled some contractual agreement, she pauses to pull on some tight pajama pants.
Lucy’s subsequent gyrations are interrupted by the appearance of her father, Pete. (Dan Ackroyd! He’s cashing in on that Oscar nomination for Driving Miss Daisy, I see.) Pete’s enters with a graduation gown, and asks if she’s been practicing. “Lucy,” he chides, “how’s it gonna look if the valedictorian messes up her speech?” At the risk of appearing unchivalrous, honesty compels me to report that I literally burst out laughing upon comprehending the import of that line. Pete also mentions that he ironed her robe, thus indicating that he’s a single dad.
Cut to the school, where a Nerd is attempting to chat Lucy up with a stumbling dissertation on the differences between frogs and toads. Meanwhile, a surly, slutty-looking girl who to my VAST SURPRISE turns out to be the older Mimi is accosted by a male student who asserts “I know you want me!” As it turns out, she doesn’t, perhaps because he’s quite apparently a thirty year-old man with a receding hairline who is just now graduating from high school.
On the other hand, the actress playing Mimi, one Taryn Manning, was herself twenty-three at the time, so maybe not. In any case, she flips him the bird—oooh, she’s a rebel—and he does that tongue-waggling thing back at her, and I was all, “Well, isn’t that charming.”
Meanwhile, approaching from yet another direction—(it’s a metaphor, because the three are no longer best friends, remember?)—is the present-day Kit. Or so I deduced from the fact that the producers helpfully made her the school’s sole apparent black student. She’s a bit of a stuck up buppie, setting up a (yawn) ‘intriguing’ counterpoint to Mimi’s hostile bad girl and Lucy’s wholesome valed…valedic…. I’m sorry, I just can’t finish that sentence. I just can’t.
In any case, Kit’s portrayer was the 23 year-old Zoe Saldana. If one wonders why the John Hughes movie Sixteen Candles still hits such a chord with younger viewes, part of the reason may lie in the fact that he actually cast fifteen and sixteen year-olds to play fifteen and sixteen year-olds. (Well, sometimes. Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall remained the right age for the following year’s The Breakfast Club, but co-star Emilio Estevez was 23 and Judd Nelson 26 when they made the movie.)
A chattering Kit runs into Lucy and knocks the latter’s books to the floor. Lucy was carrying an armload of tomes, naturally, because she’s such a bookish sort. Kit snarls, and when Lucy points out that it was Kit who ran into her, Kit responds, “What, you’re too perfect to bump into anybody?” Kit then derides Lucy as wholesome and virginal, before stalking off with her equally vapid posse of Mean Girls. See, the three aren’t best friends anymore. Get it?
Next we see Kit’s mom organizing a picture, and she proves pushy and domineering. I guess that’s why Kit has become so mean. Wow! It’s like we’re peering into her very soul. Still, I give the film props for casting the black friend as the nasty one. On the other hand, the alternative was to make her the slutty one, so maybe this was just considered the safer choice.
Now that we’ve seen Kit’s Secret Pain, we move on. A teacher compliments Lucy on her valedic…well, you…speech, and expresses her hopes that Lucy will continue to study music in college. “Actually,” papa Pete jumps in, “Lucy wants to be a doctor.”
Lucy casts her eyes down at this, so that we ‘get’ that she really doesn’t want to be a doctor at all.
Just to be safe, though, the audience’s ‘getting’ time is extended by having Pete pursue this theme for a while. In any case, I think we must all side with Lucy here. To the extent that we associate her with her portrayer, I think we can all agree that we’re probably all better off with her being a singer than a physician. No offense, but I don’t see her interning on House M.D. anytime soon.
What’s funnier, though, is that Lucy’s teacher seems disappointed by this pronouncement, as if Lucy were such an amazing musical prodigy that becoming a doctor would be slumming. But again, better she keeps repeating “Oops, I Did It Again” as a singer than as a doctor.
The scene ends as Pete walks off with Henry, the exaggerated movie nebbish Lucy was conversing with earlier. (Please, please don’t tell me he’s supposed to be her boyfriend.) She then looks apologetically to her teacher and, explaining her abandonment of her vast musical gifts to pursue her father’s dreams that she become a lowly doctor, shrugs, “I’m all he has.” You know, unless they were actually aiming this movie at five year-olds, this is getting pretty insulting. Why not write out the ‘themes’ on cards for us to read if you’re so afraid we won’t plumb this movie’s dramatic intricacies?
Cut to Lucy’s bedroom, later that evening. All gussied up in a pink dress, Our Heroine is pensively contemplating her wall of academic awards. (Please, stop it, you’re killing me here.) Her father comes in with the latest framed document, presumably her diploma, to add to the collection.
He is surprised, though, to find Lucy in tears. She explains that for all her hard work to become valedic—YOU KNOW—it didn’t bring her any pleasure. She pours out her heart about how she never got to have a social life or just be a NORMAL KID. Pete remains obtusely deaf to her pleas, however. Since he appears to be functionally retarded, Lucy gives up and gets back with the program.
We cut to the school’s graduation dance, where amidst the gaiety Lucy stands alone. (Britney Spears as a wallflower. Uhm, OK.) Kit enters with her band of Heathers, and naturally gives her one-time pal the cold shoulder. Right on cue, Mimi enters next. This comes off as entirely moronic, as there seems no chance at all that she’d even come to the dance. Still, she’s wearing a rumpled army shirt over her formal dress, just to show how rebel-y she still is.
Hilariously, Mimi is the one who remembers their old pact and wants to follow through on it. This seems completely out of character, but there you go. However, at this point Henry makes the scene, still aggressively displaying his dweeb credentials by accessorizing his tux with a plaid cummerbund (!), not to mention a backpack. “I have plans,” Lucy haplessly informs Mimi, and dutifully turns to fulfill the promise of awkward, clumsy dancing and quick, fumbling, furtive sex with her David Schwimmer-esque beau. As they leave, Henry trips on the steps, just in case his inferiority as a male has not been sufficiently communicated so far.
Having struck out with Lucy, Mimi then attempts to remind Kit of their promise. Needless to say, Kit is all ‘Talk to the hand!’ I really don’t buy Mimi pursuing this whole thing with such zeal, but I guess they wanted to make sure that Lucy didn’t come off as The Pathetic One. On the dance floor, Kit dances with her subordinate Heathers while exchanging heated glances with the band’s broodily hunky guitarist.
“The guitar guy is such a hottie!” she tells one of her friends. Good grief. This movie is like one of those old comic strips featuring dialogue boxes that literally translate exactly what the art was showing. You know, Superman would be drawn lifting a car over his head, and the text would read, “Superman lifts a car over his head!”
One of the Heathers identifies him as Ben Kimble, and another notes, “I heard he just got out of jail. Killed a guy.” (No doubt the real killer was the One Armed Man.) Certainly sounds like the sort of a band a school would hire for a graduation dance, doesn’t it? Anyway, apparently I was wrong about the roles being assigned the girls. Mimi is the outwardly rebellious but inwardly vulnerable Ally Sheedy analogue, and Kit is the one who will Choose Wrongly In Love and end up abandoned or beaten up or pregnant or some combination of the three, with only her reawakened sisterhood with Lucy and Mimi to salve her soul.
Anyhoo, emboldened by Ben’s Bad Boy creds, her posse encourages her to pursue him, despite Kit’s being engaged. It turns out her beau Dylan is off at college, so no harm, no foul, I guess.Kit is annoyed at their suggestion that Dylan is himself probably taking advantage of their separation to break off a piece, and stalks out.
Meanwhile, in a truly grisly moment, we cut to a motel room where the gawky, underwear-clad (*brrrr*) Henry is anointing himself with ‘comical’ clouds of talcum powder as he awaits his tryst with Lucy. Did I mention that Lucy looks a lot like Britney Spears? You get that, right? (On the other hand, as he is being played by a modern actor, Henry of course displays a completely out-of-character well-muscled torso, complete with washboard abs. Hollywood just can’t seem to understand that not every person throughout the history of the planet spent three or four hours a day in the gym.)
When Lucy calls from the bathroom to inquire as to whether he’s ready, Henry begins playing a tape of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On”—see, it’s ‘funny’—and tells her to come ahead. She emerges in his tuxedo jacket, and does a little dance as she opens it to reveal her pink panties and bra. Uhm, what’s going on here? Why is Spears playing a nerd’s fantasy sex dream in her own movie? This all seems like a scene from a bad network TV adaptation of American Pie, and you wonder what the hell it’s doing in a film supposedly providing its audience a tale of Female Empowerment.
Wanting her first film to be a success, Britney sought to put her best two feet forward.
Lucy reaches up to unhook her bra, only to stop at the last moment. (Am I supposed to be thankful for this? I was, in any case. It’s not like they would have showed us anything anyway.) “This isn’t how I hoped it would be,” she confesses. “That’s weird,” Henry replies, “’cause this is exactly how I hoped it would be. ” Yeah, no kidding. Again, though, it should be noted that this is her movie, not his.
To my horror, though, the scene continues to play out. She climbs into bed with him, but insists on hearing “the List” again. (Komedy Ahoy!, I’m thinkin’.) Hoping to salvage the evening, he naturally agrees.” Number One,” he begins. “We’ve been lab partners for three years so we really trust each other.” See, it’s apparently the list of reasons why she should have sex with him. It’s ‘funny.’ So funny I felt like tearing my eyes out and shoving them into my ears for a bit of blessed respite.
I don’t want to beat this to death—although apparently the filmmakers didn’t have the same problem—but why is this entire scene playing out with Britney sitting around in her bra? Seriously, the level of writing indicates that this movie was, in fact, primarily aimed at high school girls (well, junior high school, really). With scenes like this, though, it really does seem like they were also trolling for perverted middle-aged men to watch this film. Because, really, were young girls really that interested in seeing Spears’ barely-clad melons throughout the film?
The scene continued apace, and I grew more and more horrified as it did so. Really, where the hell is this going? Henry manages to talk her into doing ‘it,’ and they start to kiss, and she laughs (that’s nice). She breaks off, and asks if he really wants to remember that his first time was with his lab partner. “Yes,” he replies.” Yes, I do. And I’ll tell you why.” Frankly, I’m guessing the part about “My lab partner looks exactly like Britney Spears (before the Crazy Days)” has a lot to do with it.
Instead, he says it’s because he doesn’t want to go to college as a virgin. You’d have to be pretty stupid to put it like that, especially since, again, his would-be lover LOOKS JUST LIKE BRITNEY SPEARS. In any case, she of course turns him down. And so the scene arrives at its predictably, er, flaccid, uh, climax, and again you wonder what the point of the scene was. To let young girls know they can cock tease lonely, desperate nerds on their graduation night? Well, that’s female empowerment of a sort, I suppose.
Meanwhile, some Miscellaneous Bad Boy is outside somewhere with Mimi (huh?), asking her how “the fetus” is. Back to my initial assumptions; Mimi is the one who’s gotten ‘in trouble.’ He explains that he wants to do “the right thing,” which is probably why he led off by calling their baby “the fetus.”
She asks him then why he’s ignored her for the past five months. Uhm, how along in her term is she, because she certainly doesn’t look very pregnant yet. When he mentions a rumor that she slept with another guy, she hauls off and punches him flush in the face. I guess it’s her excess of Grrrrrl Power that explains why she can deck a guy that outweighs her by fifty pounds or more without shattering any of the birdlike bones in her delicate little fist.
Mimi, who I guess really does have the power of teleportation, is next seen in the woods searching for The Box. She walks around with a flashlight, when suddenly a voice calls out, “It’s ten paces on the other side.” Turning, she finds Kit standing there.Amazing. The film’s gone from overexplaining everything within an inch of its life to throwing logical motivation completely out the window. “Where’s Lucy?” an annoyed-looking Kit asks. Presumably she’s aggravated by her complete lack of any rational reason whatsoever as to why she’d be here.
The ladies argue over who’ll hold Mimi’s flashlight, and then walk past a tree to find—are you ready to have your mind TOTALLY BLOWN?!—Lucy standing there with a shovel.(???) “Let’s just get this over with, OK?” Lucy sighs. I was hoping she meant the movie, but sadly, my DVD timer indicates that there’s still…wait, is that right?…an hour and twenty minutes left. Dammit, I’m spending way too much time on this thing.
They begin digging, and for some reason there’s a fade cut to the box after it’s been unearthed, as if some measurable period of time had gone past. This despite the fact that it was literally ‘buried’ under about three inches of soil. Digging it out—with a shovel, yet—would have taken all of about five seconds.
I can only assume they did this to ‘disguise’ exactly how close to the surface it was. You see, the box, stuck in a plastic bag that wasn’t even secured (they just folded the excess plastic underneath), proves to be in an utterly pristine condition, as are the contents. Seriously, a thin cardboard carton placed under a couple inches of dirt in an open field supposedly remained untouched by rain or insects or anything. Amazing.
Find the Evil Dead tape…find the Evil Dead tape…PLEASE find the Evil Dead tape….
The girls are eager to reveal the contents, since they all proclaim that they don’t remember what they put in there. Kit squeals with delight to find her Bridal Barbie doll.* (Presumably because, given its bizarrely immaculate condition, she can now sell it on eBay for hundreds of dollars.)
[*I’m certainly no expert on Barbie dolls, but this one’s brunette hair and satiny gown make it look like a “Millennium Wedding Barbie,” which came out in 1999 and hence would not have been available when Kit was 10 years old. That’s just unbearably sloppy for a studio-made film.]
“She was my wish,” Kit explains, again because I guess we’re assumed to be complete morons.” Looks like you’re getting your wish,” Lucy says, referring to Kit’s upcoming nuptials. Kit responds less than enthusiastically, however, reinforcing again that perhaps all is not well in that regard.
Lucy’s memento is a small locket, which proves to contain a picture of her mother and herself as a small child. “I wanted to find my mom,” she notes wistfully. (Wait, I’m getting a psychic premonition….) Noting that her mom now lives in Arizona, Lucy confesses that she never did seek her out, because good old Pete was always against the idea.
Mimi’s contribution proves to be a key chain with a cheesy little plastic globe attached. This represents, she says, her wish for, “…the world. That I was gonna get out of this crappy town, go all the way to California, put my feet in the Pacific Ocean…”Hey, wait a minute! Isn’t California sort of in the same direction as Arizona?! I think the pieces are starting to come together. Of course, that’s not surprising, because the pieces they give us are really big, quick few in number, and adorned with big red arrows indicating where they connect.
When Kit sarcastically impugns her chance of fulfilling this goal, Mimi handily produces a page torn from a magazine. According to this, “Slide Records” is having a “recording contest,” and Mimi intends to grab her chance at stardom. When a scandalized Kit points out that she’s pregnant, Lucy retorts, “I’ll wear something slimming.” As to how she’ll get there, Lucy reveals that she’s leaving in a few days and driving out to L.A. with (plot point!) Some Guy She Barely Knows.
The girls object as to the intelligence of this plan, whereupon Mimi invites them to be her traveling companions. When they continue to Question Her Dreams, Mimi angrily (well, OK, more like sulkingly) casts the Box back down in the hole. “You can just forget all your past!” she huffs. Uhm, haven’t they already? Isn’t that why you guys barely know each other anymore?
However, a final object flutters from the box. Lucy finds that it is an Instamatic picture of them back when they were youthful BFFs. This photo, I should note, is completely unfaded or in any other way ravaged by the years since it was supposedly taken.
They briefly gush over this Reminder of Things Past, but then still split up and set off walking in diametrically different directions. This is an open field, so I’m not sure why they wouldn’t all be parked in roughly the same area, but I guess it’s a Metaphor or something. Mimi forlornly turns, however, and issues one last invitation for them to join her on her trip, and then they continue on their separate ways. Not to mention their Separate Ways. Did you get that part?
Oh, you did.
By the way, let me take a moment and ponder where, exactly, this record company thing is going. Since the film’s star is a pop music star, I can only assume it will be Lucy who will be offered the Standard Rich and Famous Contract that Mimi yearns for, and that this will cause further emotional turmoil and tears and such before the Inevitable Climatic Triumph of Life-Affirming Sistah-hood.
We next cut to Kit at her apparent job at the town’s hardware store (?), which I can only assume is owned by her father…and, yes, it is. She’s arguing on the phone with her fiance, who apparently has informed her that he’s not coming home over the summer break. Trouble in paradise, huh? Gee, what a completely unforeseen development.
That established (for about the third time), we cut to Lucy visiting the garage Pete owns. She attempts to question him about her mom. He maintains that it was she who walked out on them when Lucy was three years old. And that pretty much ends the conversation, because the whole scene is kind of superfluous and why bother?
Like a very clunky watch, the plot’s gears move with stolid predictability, if not exactly precision. Thus we next watch Lucy sneaking out of the house early the next morning to embark upon her Date with Destiny. She leaves her slumbering Dad a note, because that’s what rote characters do in scenes like this. She then kisses him on the forehead before heading out. In real life this would probably wake him up, but the movie wants to let us know that she isn’t leaving because she hates Pete or anything, and this signals that. Let that be a lesson for all you young screenwriters out there.
When Lucy arrives at the rendezvous point, she finds Kit already there, and Mimi bitching about Kit bringing too much luggage. Because Kit’s kind of a yuppie. Get it? Kit’s motivation is that her fiance Dylan just happens to be a student at UCLA, and so Mimi is coincidentally going right where Kit’s beau is. Well, America is a small country, after all. And, gee, I wonder what Kit will discover when she gets there? Probably that Dylan loves her deeply and that their relationship is stronger than ever. That’s my guess, anyway.
For her part, Lucy wants to be dropped off in Arizona. By the way, Arizona’s pretty big. I hope her mom lives more or less on the route to L.A. Although I’m not sure how Lucy would even know that, since she supposedly has never heard from her mother since she left fifteen years earlier.
The car they’ll be traveling in, by the way, is a yellow, cherried-out 1973 Buick convertible, because that’s a Movie Car. Nobody ever owns a Chevy Nova or Ford Escort in movies about Female Empowerment. Meanwhile, Some Guy Mimi Doesn’t Really Know, their driver and owner of said vehicle, proves to be (*GASP*) none other than Ben, the Rumored Just Got Out of Jail for Killing a Guy Hunky Guitar Player as introduced earlier in the proceedings.Wow, who thought we’d be seeing him again?
Oh, you did.
Ben, by the way, is right off of a CW show, quite apparently being a Bad-on-the-Outside but Sensitive-on-the-Inside Guy, all muscles, lantern jaw and fashionable beard-stubble. In any case, they head off, accompanied by loud (if generic) rock music, because that’s a rule in Road Trip movies. By the way, are all three girls of age? I assume so, but if not, then Ben’s really in the crap, especially if he actually is an ex-con.
We get further Road Trip stuff. They stop for gas, and they make it clear (I mean, really, really clear) that Ben has a bit of an eye for Lucy. Which, yeah, you’d think. Mimi tries to warn him off with a “She’s not like us” remark. I’m sure that will do the job, because it’s exactly the sort of thing that would dissuade a Bad Boy guy from going after an innocent, busty nymphette.
Next is a scene where the girls try to force Ben to change the radio station playing the rock music he prefers. Frankly, I thought that took a lot of nerve, given that he’s a) driving the car, and b) doing them a big favor in the first place. In fact, Kit begins by just leaning over from the back seat and changing the station without asking, which would get her a quick trip to the curb if I were driving. When he rebuffs here, they all wheedle him girlishly to change the music.
He grudgingly agrees to a five minute changeover, and soon the girls have settled upon a really generic-sounding pop song.* [A bit of Googling established this as the song “”Bye, Bye, Bye” by N’Sync.I really don’t follow modern pop music at all, so don’t expect any trenchant commentary on that front.] Ben responds with an ongoing grimace. Brother, I’m with you. I mean, there’s no way in hell I’d listen to that sort of drivel while driving cross-country.
Things aren’t helped by the girls ‘getting down’ to the music and singing along and stuff, all of which plays in an alarmingly synthetic manner that you don’t buy for a minute. Listening to such pap is bad enough, without having a gaggle of teenage (well, ‘teenage’) girls all loudly singing along and getting all ‘funky’ with it. Nor is credibility enhanced by the trio’s suspiciously good singing voices. And again, my sympathy goes entirely to Ben, who I’m beginning to hope really is a homicidal maniac.
That night, Ben pulls over the side of the road. Saying that nobody drives the car but him (and given this crowd, who can blame him?), he indicates that it’s time to grab some sleep. The haughty Kit, naturally, responds ‘comic’ shock upon learning that he expects them all to camp out in sleeping bags, the sort of achingly predictable humor that you get from really bad sitcoms and movies like this.
She demands to be taken to a Hilton they just passed. Instead, we weirdly cut to a Waffle House (ooh, how Americana-y) for the Obligatory ‘Wow, we have no money’ scene. Nobody on a movie road trip ever has much in the way of funds, you know, much less a functioning credit card or anything like that. Needless to say, tradition dictates they heap up their collective cash on the table, which basically proves to be a pile of ones and fives. Kit, for example, has only brought $40, noting that she blew all her cash on her fancy homecoming dress.
Seriously, I don’t know about you, but ‘humor’ like this makes me tired. Yes, Kit is a pampered American Princess, I get that. (One whose dad owns a small town hardware store?) Still, unless she’s mentally retarded, I’m not sure how she expected to stay in hotel rooms—and a Hilton, no less?—on a cross-country trip when she only brought along forty dollars. Also, Ben mentions that everyone has a sleeping bag.I find it really hard to believe that he himself had a handy stockpile of these. This means that Kit must have brought one herself, so what the hell did she think that indicated?
Also, you know, this was made in 2001. They all have cell phones, but none of them has a credit card? Even buying that Mimi and Ben are destitute, and that Kit blew all her money on her dress, Lucy is exactly the sort of Good Girl who would have had a checking or savings account since she was like five years old. Don’t they have ATM accounts in Georgia? Checkbooks?
Anyway, since Lucy is the brainy one—hey, stop laughing!—she’s the one who figures out they need a plan and a budget. Apparently nobody thought of this earlier. In any case, together they have just under $500.Lucy pushes like (literally) three buttons on her checkbook calculator, then looks up and notes it’s going to be tight to pay for food and gas over the entire trip. Then we see them at a skuzzy motel, which AGAIN THEY JUST ESTABLISHED THEY CAN’T AFFORD. What the hell, movie?
Their room is decorated in a gaudy ’70s Love Motel theme but weirdly large and sporting two beds. Naturally, Kit turns up her nose at these accommodations and starts bitching. At this point you’re just really aware that you’re watching a movie, because nobody tells her to shut the &@#% up. Then she attempts to claims one of the two beds for herself (because she has an outsized sense of entitlement, get it?). Only when she sits down it collapses under her, and boy, that seemed pretty realistic.
Everyone laughs uproariously—in the movie, anyway—while I wondered when Urkle or Charles in Charge would make an appearance.Hopefully with a gun, so they could shoot me in the head and I wouldn’t have to watch the remaining hour and ten minutes of this dreck. Seriously, this is the kind of film where you’re actually actively hoping that the end credits are like ten minutes long, since that would mean the movie itself would be over sooner.
Cut to a little later, with Kit and Mimi slumbering soundly. This allows Lucy and Ben, facing each other from separate beds, to have a little heart to heart chat.I hope this isn’t going to develop into an actual romance. While Spears was 21 when she made this, she is, er, very credible as a naïve 18 year-old. A credit to her acting, let’s say. Meanwhile, the guy playing Ben, one Anson Mount (!!!), was 29 at the time, and basically looked it. In fact, over a year before this came out he was playing a recurring doctor character on NBC’s Third Watch.
Ben reveals that he’s going to California because his uncle offered him a job out there. Lucy admits that she’s glad she came on the trip. (Yeah, it’s been a great sixteen hours so far.) Then they turn to go to sleep, and we see that Kit is awake, and looking doubtfully at her engagement ring. Oh, yeah, I completely forget the other half a dozen times they indicated trouble on this front. Thanks for the latest reminder, movie! Please schedule another one for, oh, two and a half minutes from now.
The next morning we vaguely see Lucy through the pebbled glass of the motel shower. Again, what’s with this coy sort of sexual stuff? Was it really necessary to show her taking a shower? The ‘justification’ is that Mimi is elliptically seen just getting off the toilet (well, I’m sure the film did well in Japan). She flushes this, causing Lucy to cry out as she’s suddenly inundated with cold water (er, shouldn’t that be hot water?), which is ‘funny’.
Lucy emerges from the shower in a towel (see previous note), and further weak tea humor follows as Kit enters and they all jostle around the bathroom. For instance, Mimi dries her hand on the very towel that Lucy is presently wearing! Ho ho, eh? Then Kit again expresses her opinion on Ben’s hunkiness, and mentions that it’s hard to believe he’s been in jail. Lucy, needless to say, is shocked by this intelligence. Of course, as played by Spears, Lucy is generally shocked by any intelligence.
Lucy squeaks her dismay. Then, worried that Ben has heard their gossiping, they ‘comically’ (can you get carpel tunnel from typing ‘ ‘ marks a zillion times?) peer around the door to find him peacefully sitting on the bed and strumming his guitar. And no, thankfully, that is not a euphemism.
They retreat back into the bathroom. A not very chastened Mimi admits that she knows little about Ben other than that he had a car and was going to Los Angeles. She then attempts to shrug off the “maybe he killed a guy” thing. Even if he had, she argues, he has since paid his debt to society. Oddly, she fails to follow up by pointing out that given his earlier conviction, if he were to murder one of them he’d only then be one further homicide away from falling under the ‘three strikes’ life sentence policy. So, obviously, he’d probably be hesitant about killing them, maybe.
We get a break (for our purposes, anyway) as this is followed by a series of short scenes that mainly eat up time and reiterate things they’ve already established. In other words, we’ve arrived at the wheel-spinning portion of things. I wasn’t exactly encouraged by this, given that the film hasn’t even hit the half hour mark yet. In short:
- Ben, trying to get closer to Lucy, is confused to find she is suddenly maintaining her distance from him.
- The girls run into a grocery store to buy a big pile of junk food.(Kit is nearly left alone with Ben in the car, and then runs after the others ‘comically.’) Apparently hoping to spend their small allotment of money as inefficiently as possible, Mimi grabs a batch of small chip bags rather than the more economical larger ones, and no one bothers pointing this out. They also buy a half gallon carton (haven’t seen one of those for a while) of milk, which seems a weird purchase for a road trip.Meanwhile, the girls continue bickering, which is already getting very tiresome.
- After stopping at another motel (really, would they have any money left by now?) Lucy calls home, but hangs up when her dad talks at her rather than to her.
- On the road the next day, we learn that Lucy writes out HER MOST PERSONAL THOUGHTS as poems in a notebook she carries. Please, please, don’t read one of them.
- Luckily, we are saved by the inevitable Road Trip Movie ‘Car Breaks Down’ scene. The special effect to indicate this is inept, inappropriately involving a single, tight stream of steam geysering up from one small section of the front windshield grill. Lucy, the daughter of a car repair service owner, identifies the problem as a busted radiator, and indicates that it’ll cost quite a bit to fix. Oh, no!! They don’t have enough money! Wah wah wah.
Cut to the car pulled over on the side of the road. As the girls wait for Ben to return with a tow truck, Kit again gets all bitchy about their financial straits, Mimi again gets all sulky, they start bickering again, etc., etc. This time they actually start fighting a little, but sadly, neither of them is killed. Man, why can’t this be Wrong Turn or Joy Ride or something like that? Now that would be entertaining. This is supposed to be their lowest moment, as they’re on the verge of hating each other. Well, guess what, ladies. I’m already there.
With no way to pay for the car to be fixed (although the garage owner is going to do the repairs anyway—yeah, that’s how it works with people who apparently have no credit cards or checking accounts), on top of the general hostility, Lucy decides to toss in the towel and call her father to come bring her home. Needless to say, there’s no way this audience-pleasing quick fadeout is going to occur. So after even MORE BICKERING, Mimi begs Lucy to stay, and convinces the others that she has a Wacky Idea to raise the money.
Cut to footage of New Orleans. (Man, that burg just can’t catch a break.) This stuff is so generic you wonder why they bothered filming it instead of just using stock footage. In any case, Mimi’s scheme involves taking part in a Karaoke contest in a Bourbon Street bar. Of course the girls are quite a bit underage, but whatever. They actually mention this, after the fact, but it never becomes an issue.
In a dressing room (!) before the contest, Kit convinces her comrades that they will make more money if they sex up their look. So they go all white trash slutty with heavy make-up and facial glitter and skin-tight clothes. Spears, of course, easily wins the, er, booby prize here, wearing a rhinestone-studded ‘shirt’ that’s basically just a midriff-baring sports bra, and a short jean skirt. (Wow, what a great message this film is delivering to its target demographic.) They’ve also somehow instantly given her hair a radical frizzy curl job. By the way, good thing they brought a pair of fingerless leather gloves and stiletto knee boots along on their road trip.
Mimi, who again dreams of winning a record contract, is supposed to do the bulk of the singing. However, since the star of this movie is Britney Spears, Mimi conveniently manifests a severe case of stage fright and is instantly booed. Needless to say, Our Star takes over, and sings an extremely wimpy version of “I Love Rock ‘n Roll.” Spears adds the little moans and guttural noises she usually employs to evoke sex, but not to overmuch effect. (This YouTube video offers a similar performance, so judge for yourself.)
Even so, Lucy oddly doesn’t sing at a much greater volume than the supposedly petrified Mimi did. In real life the crowd would be yelling “LOUDER!” and chucking beer bottles at the stage. I’m serious, I could scarcely hear her at first. Even so, the editor unwisely, even at this very early juncture, cuts in shots of the crowd swaying and nodding their approval to her barely audio performance.
Pip noted in her review of Glitter that in that movie Mariah Carey wailed her songs like a malfunctioning and ill-tuned air raid siren. In contrast, Spears’ performance here is more reminiscent of Kelly Clarkson’s numbers in From Justin to Kelly, which were typically sung in a weirdly reserved style that utterly failed to take advantage of her pipes. The epitome of this was the literally whispery rendition of “That’s The Way I Like It,” a song that really demands to be sung with a little gusto.
Same thing here, as Spears handles the lyrics as if she’s afraid they’ll shatter into glassy shards if she doesn’t mouth them with the utmost delicacy. If that’s the best she can do, why the hell would you have her perform a rowdy song like “I Love Rock ‘n Roll”? Good grief, Joan Jett has a hundred times the juice at the age of 50 than Spears had at the age of 21. Jett’s still going strong, and if anything is sexier than she was back in the ’80s. Meanwhile, what is Spears going to do when her boobs start sagging? I hope she have more talent to rely on than she displays here.
For all her vamping (which seems a little out of character for Lucy, really), Spears commands the same authority as a balls-to-the-wall rock ‘n roller as Donny Osmond did during his Rock ‘n Roll / Country face offs with his sister Marie. When Jett sings lasciviously of a guy being seventeen, you picture her drinking him under the table, ravishing him, and abandoning her unconscious toy as dawn breaks, leaving him battered, disheveled and hung over. Spears sounds more like a young girl trying to be naughty. Given what we see here, I’d say Spears should forgo classic Rock Anthems in the future.
Sadly, Rock ‘n’ Roll doen’t love her back.
Now, it should be pointed out that as a professional singer (whose singing here was, moreover, professionally recorded and no doubt electrically pimped up), Spears delivers a performance that’s somewhat better than you might expect to hear at your average karaoke night. So what really makes the scene ludicrous is not her singing itself, but the exaggeratedly frenzied manner in which the crowd reacts to it.
This is naturally meant to suggest that Lucy is, all manifest evidence to the contrary, positively tearing the roof off the place. Intense inebriation might explain this, I guess, but even in New Orleans I’m not sure a Tuesday night crowd between the hours of seven and ten o’clock (as has been established) would be quite that drunk.
In any case, the whooping, fist-pumping audience passes around a large plastic jug and demonstrate their approval by throwing a huge amount of cash into it. By the way time the number is over, the group’s money woes are conveniently taken care of. In fact, given the way they spend their cash in the next couple of scenes, they must have reaped well over a grand (!) here. Apparently the absinth still flows freely in the streets of Nawlins.
You know, given how Spears skanks it up here, I’m not sure which I find creepier; the idea that the film was aimed at the fifty year-old pervert crowd, or a generation of thirteen and fourteen year-old girls. After all, when pubescent young girls listen to boy bands, their sexual reactions and feeling are still (at least potentially) abstract. Spears, in contrast, seem to be schooling them in how to act if they want to be ‘successful’ and ‘popular,’ and that’s a horse of a different color. Not to be mean, but it’s not like Spears herself appears to be enjoying her life overmuch these days.
If it seems like I’m spending a little too much time on this particular scene, it’s because this is, oddly enough, the only time Spears really sings in the whole movie. That seems a bizarre strategy, especially since (to say the least) she doesn’t provide much recompense in terms of acting ability. Moreover, the picture itself doesn’t expend any apparent effort to be a lick better than it strictly has to be. The filmmakers have set the bar low, and still made it wobble as they awkwardly clambered over it.
In any case, their money woes are now magically taken care of.They hang around the bar long enough for a Frat Guy (uh oh!) to start macking on Lucy, thus allowing Ben a rather pedestrian Action Moment wherein he elbows the guy’s nose. The crowd reacts to this with apparent shock, because that sort of incredible, vicious mayhem isn’t something you’d expect to see in a bar, much less so in a sedate burg like New Orleans.
This accomplished, Our Gang takes their leave. With cash burning a hole in their pockets, they check into a swank hotel. Ben goes on a convenient late night walk, allowing the girls to order up an entire hotel dessert cart ($$$$) and hit the mini-bar. Don’t worry, it’s a movie, so pregnant Mimi sticks to Pepsi (Hello, Product Placement!), while and Kit and Lucy only imbibe what appear to be wine coolers (in a mini-bar?).
Generic Girl Stuff follows. They dance around a little more to a pop song on the radio, and make some rather unenthusiastic attempts at fist-pumping and Whoo! sounds and the like.Then Kit actually said “You go, girl!” and I felt a sharp, stabbing pain in the Self Respect area of my brain. (This despite the fact, as you may have guessed if you are a regular visitor to this site, that this has already largely atrophied over the years.) They eventually climb—offscreen, thankfully—into their pajamas, and (are you sitting down?) finally begin to bond.I mean, c’mon, didn’t the ‘pajamas’ part give that away?
They yak through the dawn, first in their room, and then as the sole occupants of the hotel’s small courtyard.(By the way, how did they check in? I know they have cash, but don’t you need a credit card to get a hotel room these days?) At first everything is all shit and giggles. Well, more shit, actually. One ‘hilarious’ topic, for instance, is the revelation that wholesome Lucy, who is currently still dressed like a bar slut, has actually seen and touched a penis.(Nerd Boy’s, presumably.) Much unconvincing jocularity ensues.
In the end, though, their return to Bestest Friends Forever status is cemented when they inevitably begin to share their Sybokian Secret Pains. These are pretty unimaginative, and none of these ladies are likely to win any Oscars in the near future, so the director tries to liven things up with several distracting and pointless camera zooms and pans. Anyway, we learn that Kit’s mom is overbearing, demanding and narcissistic. Lucy’s mom, as we know, took off years ago, although Lucy is sure she wants to see her. (Three guesses were this is going.)
Mimi has the best one, though. See, she’s not the party girl we think. It turns out that the ONE TIME she had some beers, she got drunk, accepted a ride home from a guy, and was raped.(How charming.) That’s how she got pregnant. She never told the police, because, I guess, she had seen Thelma & Louise or something and knew nothing would come of it.
Kit asks “What was his name?” (a weirdly phrased question, I thought, as opposed to “Who was he?”), and Mimi averts her eyes and says she doesn’t know. At this the Plot Point Klaxon Alarms started ringing loudly in my head. Do you get depressed when you see a looming script contrivance coming from a mile off? I sure do.
So the girls have re-bonded and promise never to drift apart again and blah blah. I’ll admit I’m not the target audience for this film, but certainly the lameness of the execution isn’t helping me much here. I found their scripted bouts of girlish, tittering gaiety and attempts to simulate inebriation especially forced and unconvincing. That, and the dramatic stuff. Wait, I guess I found all of this especially forced and unconvincing. At least there’s a lot of it, though.
Anyhoo, they laugh, and cry, and hug, and finally we can get back to the movie. Although it’s not like that’s cause for overmuch celebration, either. Ben shows up without explaining his whereabouts, because frankly he was just ushered offstage so the girls could do their Gilmore Girls stuff.
They are soon driving through Texas. At a gas station, the girls return to the car to find Ben sleeping in the back seat. Despite his instructions that no one but himself is allowed to drive the car, they lift his keys and set off down the road. This allows for yet another sequence of the girls funking out to some generic pop song (Shania Twain’s “I Feel Likea Woman”, I guess) on the radio. Man, this movie doesn’t have an ounce of fat on it. Again, maybe the young girls they aimed this movie at ate this stuff up, but damn, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have tried just a little harder.
Anyway, Ben eventually wakes up and has a hissy fit about Lucy driving the car. He orders her to pull over, whereupon he stalks to the side of the road and begins to yell and kick up the scrub.
Then a contrite Lucy comes over and, oddly enough, I had a moment where I actually identified with one of the characters here. “I’m a guy,” Ben says, explaining the source of his irritation. “And I have been listening to nothing but girl talk and watching you do your girl things for days.” Tell it, brother!! Their magpie chattering and giggling and singing along to horrible pop music would drive any sane person nuts.
Spleen vented, they continue on down the road. More generic road trip footage, and then we get the inevitable revelation about Ben’s stint in the pokey. Needless to say, it was entirely righteous; he removed his stepsister from his abusive stepfather’s house.
However, since she was a minor this was technically abduction and he went to jail. There, don’t you feel better now? Anyway, this naturally clears the way for he and Lucy to eventually hook up. What a perfunctory wrap-off of that plot point, though. This whole movie just feels lazy, like a term paper written the night before it was due.
Their arrival in Arizona is indicated when Ben pulls over by some of the famous red rock formations out there. They get out to appreciate Nature’s Glory (which is cool), and then disrupt it by yelling like apes into the solitude (which isn’t). And so another few minutes of the film, not to mention my life, are eaten up.
Presumably enraptured by their ability to annoy Mother Gaia, they decide to camp out for the night. You can tell Kit is a Better Person now because she goes along with this, in contrast to her earlier bitching. By the campfire, Mimi teaches Kit how to throw a punch, noting that this is something every girl should know how to do. This will probably prove useful when they reach LA and Kit pops in unannounced on her fiance to learn a) he’s been cheating on her, and b) he’s the guy who—small world—date raped Mimi. Oops, sorry.
Then, the long-feared Moment of Horror arrives, as Ben (YOU BASTARD!) asks to hear one of the ‘poems’ Lucy is constantly scribbling in her notebook. This proves, unsurprisingly, to correspond to the lyrics of Spear’s song “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.” So we can expect to hear it ‘turned’ into a song later on, I’m sure. I have to say, though, hearing the lines coldly read out loud really emphasizes how puerile these lyrics are. Then Ben sees a smudge on her face. He moves to wipe it off, and in doing so touches her tenderly, which was really sweet, especially the part where I had to wipe the vomit off my computer keyboard.
The dawn is heralded by a shot of Dream Catchers, because we’re in Arizona where pretentious doofi buy stuff like that. And so the big day has arrived when Lucy will meet her mom.Lucy confers with her pals and they wisely decide that the best idea is simply to show up completely unannounced. Yes, great idea, that couldn’t possibly go awry.(For instance, what if she were on vacation or something?Anyway.)
They arrive outside Mom’s house, which prove to be a veritable mansion tucked away in the desert. Lucy says goodbye to her friends, assuming that she’ll be staying at Casa Mama for awhile. This seems presumptuous; to say the least, even assuming Mom welcomes her with open arms.
Lucy knocks on the front door, and it’s answered by Mom (Kim Cattrall). Mom is naturally a bit nonplussed by this development, but invites Lucy inside. Needless to say, this entire scene is about crushing Lucy’s dreams of maternal love, but sadly it’s as botched as everything else in this movie. Only here it’s because they actually cut away too soon from some potentially good material.
The canniest decision, in the brief amount of time allotted here, is that Mom is brusque rather than cartoonishly sadistic. If she’s cruelly reserved, it’s only to the extent required to cut through Lucy’s romantic daydreaming and make her understand the score. While my lack of sympathy for Lucy diminishes my empathy for her plight here, I have to say this scene is about the only thing in the film that approaches being well-executed. It’s hardly stunning stuff, but these few minutes felt much more honest to me than the rest of the film.
“I’m sorry to crush your dreams like this, but the fact is, you just can’t act.”
I suppose the difference might be that there’s an actual actor on the screen at this point. Ackroyd can act to some extent, but his part is shallowly written and he doesn’t have the chops to overcome it. Cattrall, in contrast, is provided with an authentically human character with understandable, if not admirable, motivations.
Even so, they predictably fail to trust the audience, and do too much to make sure we ‘get’ it. Their conversation is interrupted when Mom gets a phone call from one of her young sons. Lucy spends the time wandering around and looking upon framed pictures of a happy Mom with her new husband and young sons, all as her mother is heard lavishing on her son the love she denies her daughter. This effectively lends the scene a soupcon of pathos, and with so little competition, this remains the best stuff in the movie.
Even so, in a remarkably boneheaded decision, what should be the most dramatic scene in the entire film is skipped over entirely. This is when Mom explains, but only after we’ve cut away, that she never intended to have Lucy. Pete more or less pressured Mom to have a baby, and that this is why Mom left after doing so. She really doesn’t feel any connection to Lucy, and naturally doesn’t invite her to come live with her in her big desert dream house.
Sadly, we only learn all this later, and in a second-hand fashion. The backstory I recount above is communicated to the audience not directly by Lucy’s mom, but by Lucy herself, when she later fills in her friends after reuniting with them. Because, you know, stuff is always more dramatic when presented in a second hand manner.
The confrontation between Lucy and her Mom should have been the core of the movie. After all, Lucy’s unresolved issues with her mother have been the central dramatic motivation for Lucy’s entire character (such as it is). It’s hard to imagine what they were thinking here. Perhaps they thought actually seeing Lucy’s dreams destroyed would be too unpleasant. Perhaps, and I have to say this is my theory, they did in fact film the whole thing. Perhaps Spears limitations as an actress were so apparent that they were forced to leave the footage on the cutting room floor.
In the end, Cattrall is sadly allotted but a bare few minutes of screentime, the scene ending before it barely gets started. Given that the film otherwise drags out and repeatedly reiterates nearly every boring element it bothers to present, this is a major screw-up. Again, unless the people who made this were just complete morons, I can only assume that Spears looked so bad in these scenes that they were literally unusable. Otherwise, the decision is just flummoxing.
In any case, we move on.During a driving thunderstorm—which they have in Arizona, but not all that often—Lucy appears at the door of her friends’ nearby motel room. Although barely damp, she asks for some towels and goes and sits on the floor of the attached bathroom. This chamber is weirdly big, and the lighting in the scene seems to be emanating from inside the bathtub! This doesn’t seem to be reflected from a ceiling light, and if it’s supposed to be from a window or skylight, well, apparently they forgot that they just established that the area is being deluged with rain at the moment.
Ben enters and scoots down on the floor with her—there’s plenty of room—and she sobs and he comforts her and so on. Then we cut to Lucy lounging by the otherwise abandoned hotel pool with Kit and Mimi (just like the New Orleans courtyard was abandoned, conveniently enough). She reveals all the stuff we should have heard directly, and Mimi and Kit hold a little pity party scene for her. Meanwhile I hold a little pity party for myself, as I ponder how there could possibly be nearly half an hour of this movie left.
Cut to Lucy alone in their room, looking a lot better. Ben shows up, and takes her down to the sun room of hotel where they have a piano standing by in case some guest should get the urge to play. He reveals that he’s written music for her poem, and sure enough we get a performance of part of the song.
Obviously the arrangement isn’t as complex as it is on the album, but in grand movie fashion, their impromptu duet is all but letter perfect on both their parts. In fact, I haven’t seen a scene like this that was so obviously phony since Neil Diamond’s The Jazz Singer, and that’s saying something. I literally burst out laughing when Lucy starting La-La-ing in perfect time to the music perfectly just as she’s first hearing it.
And so he Wins Her Love.Which that plot thread tied up, they can move on to L.A. Thus we get yet another driving sequence, with the girls yet again singing along to yet another snippet of yet another pop song (Sheryl Crowe’s “If It Makes You Happy,” this time). Yes, we get it, you want us to rush out and buy the soundtrack album. As this is about the sixth iteration of this same basic scene, I was really starting to get a bit pissed off. Which, following the logic of Crowe’s song, means that maybe the movie is that bad.
The group’s arrival in L.A. is established by—and I hope you’re sitting down—a montage of stuff they’re supposedly driving past. This includes a) a place selling maps to the stars’ homes, b) the Capitol Records Building, c) a shot looking up at the tops of towering palm trees, and d) the Hollywood sign. You can see why filmmakers make so much more money than the rest of us will ever see. It’s because of their amazing artistic creativity.
We cut to our cast frolicking on the beach, and any hope for the film’s redemption is foregone when the movie doesn’t climax with Spears coming across a half-buried Statue of Liberty. Seriously, that would have been awesome. Instead, Lucy proposes staying out here with Ben. It seems like this idea should more naturally be introduced at the end of the picture, but sadly we’ve still a ways to go.
Next we see Mimi getting an application for the contest. We can tell they’re in the ‘music section’ of town because in the background we see a couple of extras dressed like complete idiots. For his own part, Ben mentions that he’s thinking of putting a band together, so I don’t know what happened with that thing about his uncle.
Then we finally get to the part where Kit goes on a surprise visit to see her loving fiance, because surprise visits have really been going well on this trip. Actually, she does call him to say she’s in town, but he replies he doesn’t have time to see her. (Why would he even be keeping up the pretense of wanting to marry her at this point? It’s all too clear—and I mean, all too clear—where this is going.)
Despite his refusing to see her, Kim will not take no for an answer, I’m thinking. And Mimi will tag along for no logical reason. Oh, except that, as we all figured out long, long ago, she has to be there to go all J’Accuse! on Dylan’s ass, after Kit discovers him in the arms of some tart. And then Kit can do that punchy thing that Mimi taught her, and she’ll leave sadder but wiser, eventually to be healed by the balms of Sisterhood and Female Empowerment.
Or maybe I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.
Kit and Mimi go out sight-seeing (it’s supposed to be a ‘cool’ moment when the previously possessive Ben casually tosses them the keys to his car), but it turns out that Kit is actually *GASP* driving over for an unannounced drop in at Dylan’s dorm. Mimi reacts to this plan in an exaggerated fashion, almost as if there was some mysterious reason she really didn’t want to see Kit’s fiance. Hmm, I wonder what could be behind all that?
Meanwhile, Ben and Lucy stay behind in their hotel room to do the deed. Needless to say, we don’t see much of Lucy’s deflowering; and believe me, I was entirely all right with that fact. And this time Lucy isn’t with a hopeless, pathetic nerd who we can all safely laugh and go ewwwww! at. Instead, her lover to be is a big strapping dude with permanent Sexy Beard Stubble, manly enough to beat up obnoxious frat boys but sensitive enough to write music for Lucy’s poems. Gaaak!
Meanwhile, while Lucy keeps her shirt on until after we cut away, we do get to see Ben remove his for about the fifth time already. So I guess that answers the question of who they were aiming this movie at. All they missed here was to have Ben present Lucy with a pony before they make beautiful (if vague) love together, under a glistening rainbow.
Back to Kit and Mimi.Kit drags Mimi along with her as she heads up to Dylan’s dorm room, for no apparent reason other than…oh, yeah, I covered that. Anyway, Dylan answers Kit’s knock—he’s white, which is cool, because you shouldn’t make a black guy look like a jerk—but doesn’t seem in a hurry to invite the love of his life inside his room. Plus he calls her Kitty-Kat, which…no.
After establishing that Dylan and Mimi know each other (hmm), a suspicious Kit forces the door open, and finds that Dylan *GASP* has an Obvious Bimbo in the room. Really, it’s like this women just came out of a Street Prostitute Barbie box. Also, Dylan knew his fiance traveled across the country to visit him, but didn’t have the sense to either ditch the girl for a day, or even take the party elsewhere in case Kit showed up without warning?Whatever.
Meanwhile, I myself was becoming suspicious about something. You see, back when Mimi told Kit and Lucy about her molestation, she mentioned she had been drinking something that came in a blue bottle. And Dylan is holding a beer, and it’s in a blue bottle.* OMG, IT’S ALL COMING TOGETHER!DYLAN IS THE ONE WHO RAPED MIMI! WHAT AN AMAZING, COMPLETELY UNFORESEEABLE PLOT TWIST!!
[*Apparently this was written by somehow whose experience with mystery stories leaned heavily towards the Encyclopedia Brown series. The detail about the blue bottle was so bizarrely out of left field when Mimi first mentioned it that you knew it would come to ‘mean’ something later in the movie.]
Sure enough, Kit sees the Blue Bottle, and ALL THE PIECES COME TOGETHER. Apparently because Dylan drinks some microbrew beer that nobody else in the world drinks that comes in a blue bottle. You know, the kind so obscure that you can procure it in both Georgia and California. Wow, it’s like a just slightly sub-par episode of Diagnosis Murder.
Then, and I hope you’re sitting down, Kit sucker punches Dylan just as Mimi taught her, putting all her eighty-five pounds into the far beefier Dylan, and thus no doubt making his face slightly sore. And he deserves it! TAKE THAT, RAPIST!HA, HA, A GOOD PUNCH IN THE FACE FROM A SLIM 18 YEAR-OLD GIRL IS THE JUST DESSERTS FOR YOU!!
For her own part, an emotionally distraught Mimi tearfully runs off. Now, let me ask you a question. Have you ever seen a movie where a pregnant woman is anywhere around a flight of stairs and doesn’t go tumbling down them?
Well, this isn’t it.
Oh, and hilariously, her tumble is ‘artistically’ represented by a slow-motion shot of her plastic globe keychain bouncing down the steps, an image accompanied by Tragic Music.I swear!!
Next follows a montage that is sans dialogue, not to mention brief, and hence one of the best things in the movie. As we wait, supposedly on the very edges of our seats, for word on Mimi’s condition, Lucy calls home and tells her dad where she is.
Anyway, Mimi is fine, but TRAGICALLY the baby died, because that’s the sort of thing that happens in these things (see The Best of Everything, The Adventurers, The Other Side of Midnight, Gone With the Wind, etc.), and Pete shows up and demands that the girls come home with him, and Lucy gives in and agrees and we, hearts bursting in our chests, wonder if she and Ben will be parted, oh, no, please, let it not be so, and the girls reflect on their trip and How It’s Changed Their Lives (“God, doesn’t it feel like we left home like a million years ago?” Lucy asks—LADY, I HEAR YOU!!), and Peter prepares to drive the girls to the airport, but Lucy Has Found Love and Must Now Live Her Own Life and at the last minute convinces a sorrowful Pete that this is so (because his dream of her becoming a doctor was so repressive; he should be glad his 18 year-old daughter is going to live on the other side of the country and shack up with the jailbird who deflowered her and be in a band with him), and Lucy runs and embraces Her Man, and then she takes part in the record contract audition (with Kit and Mimi singing backup—huh?) with predictable results and her glowing Pop looking on from the audience (which is exactly like the ending of Neil Diamond’s The Jazz Singer), and then the girls load the Box (huh, did they bring the box with them on the road trip?!) with new gewgaws that represent their past instead of the future this time, and bury it about half a foot down in the sands of a California beach, which is even more likely to keep it preserved, and I guess out of nowhere Mimi and Kit will also be staying in California now so that they can all remain Bestest Friends Forever, and yes, I might be telescoping the film’s final ten-plus minutes in this one obscenely long paragraph, but I’m sick and tired of this film and if you don’t like it you can just watch the damn thing yourself.
Compared to Mariah Carey’s Glitter, Crossroads fared comparatively well.(Well, it did better financially, anyway. Crossroads‘ 15% Rotten Tomatoes approval rating is only marginally less feeble than Glitter‘s 6%.) Glitter boasted a production budget of $22 million, and reaped a paltry $6 million at the worldwide box office. Crossroads, meanwhile, was made for a Spears-slim $12 million and pulled in $61 million at the worldwide box office. That’s certainly not Titanic money, but there’s no doubt the film turned a tidy, if not gigantic, profit.
Aside from an unfortunate accident of history—Glitter hits theaters a mere ten days after 9/11, while Crossroads was released five months later—Spears’ film also was more cannily aimed at her core fan demographic of young teenage girls. (And, remembering again the underwear scene, her other key fan demographic of 50 year-old creepy men. One imagines they largely stayed home during the theatrical run, yet helped raise the more anonymous DVD sales quite a bit.)
Glitter, meanwhile, attempted to ape the sort of ‘adult’ show biz schmaltz movies that Diana Ross once churned out back in the ’70s. The problem is, there really isn’t much of a market for those sorts of films anymore. As well, Glitter‘s oddball ‘period’ setting in the 1980s certainly doesn’t seem designed to have drawn 21st century fourteen year-olds to the theaters.
Spears, in contrast, is twelve years younger than Carey. This allowed her to more suitably played an 18 year-old—only slightly a stretch for the not exactly older-than-her-years, then 21 year-old singer—and thus provided a heroine who was rather more squarely in her fanbase’s wheelhouse. Certainly the WB Afterschool Special tone of the affair was no doubt artistic comfort food to a generation of young girls raised on television fare like Dawson’s Creek.
The Critics Rave:
“She’s not yet an actress, not quite a singer…” Richard Roeper, Ebert & Roeper
“Oops, she’s really done it this time…” Claudia Puig, USA Today
“Spears runs a monotonous gamut from perky to pouty…. At the Crossroads screening I attended, derisive laughter greeted one of Spears’ stilted line readings.” Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
“The movie’s one clever touch is to cast Sex and the City vixen Kim Cattrall as Lucy’s mom; she actually looks the part. But their confrontation lasts literally seconds – one suspects because Britney couldn’t hold up her end of the scene.” Lou Lumenick, New York Post
“If Crossroads had been a high-polish ditzfest for six year-olds, I would probably have disliked it more, but at least I would have been able to comprehend it. Instead it’s a ditzfest masquerading as S.E. Hinton — a stupid little movie that attempts to cater to mature audiences by thoughtlessly including risque splashes. Kids will be baffled, teenagers won’t be interested and adults will dismiss the whole thing as thin.” Ian Waldron-Mantgani, UK Critic.