Friday, June 14, 2013

Good Actress Left TEETH Marks

I remember when I went to a critics' screening of the new 2009 movie, An Education.  Ten minutes into the movie several of us, including yours truly and my date, started looking at the press materials handed to us.  Using the light of the film onscreen to read, we glanced on the first pages to see "Who's the girl?"  Carey Mulligan just popped when she hit the screen, full of verve and charisma and talent.  That performance would put her in the running for the Best Actress Academy Award the following year.  I did the same thing at a screening in 2007 when I was reviewing movies on Whoopi Goldberg's syndicated weekday morning radio show.  But this critics' screening was different.  Only two of us were present in the theater.  I was the only one checking his press materials to see "Who's the girl?"  There was a glimmer of the 1970s/80s Teri Garr about her.

This movie didn't have the cachet of An Education.  Similar to Stephen King's Carrie, it was like a dark horror version of a classic fairy tale.  A lovely, sweet and shy high school student is awkward with the changes occurring in her young body.  Jess Weixler was excellent as Dawn.  This actress gave an "A" performance in a quirky "B" movie.
Dawn grew up in a dull small town that has a Three Mile Island look about it.  Could living near a nuclear plant have caused her unusual growth -- the way atomic power gave us mutant creatures in 1950s sci-fi movies?  We never really get that answer.  But we do see that when Dawn says "No" to a guy, she means it.  And he'd better listen.  She was cursed...and blessed...with the best defense against male sexual violence.  Think "the little man in the boat" meets Jaws.  Dawn has a condition called Vagina Dentata.

Don't speak medical Latin?  Take a look at the trailer to see what it all means.

And there you have it.  I doubt that any man can sit through this 90-minute horror story without squirming.  The storyline isn't quite as strong as Weixler's performance but the movie is so original and so freaky that it holds your interest.  Director and screenwriter Mitchell Lichtenstein did some clever work, giving us witty chills.  He taps into some primal fears about sex.  Dawn is a teen undergoing physical changes she can't control -- like Peter Parker shooting streams of a sticky substance out of his body as he mutates into Spider-Man.

Jess Weixler keeps Dawn believable and sympathetic.  She also blends in comedy without pushing it.  Very skillful, subtle work.  She doesn't comment on Dawn's character, she plays the insecure and confused reality of her.  There are flashes of camp humor, like a parody of the 1950s style of sci-fi movie acting, but not enough overall camp humor in the film to make this a full-blown guilty-pleasure send up of a genre -- like in a Mars Attacks!, Mike Nichol's What Planet Are You From? or The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I'm sure that, given the subject matter, this was a difficult movie to market.  It's not exactly mainstream.  Many moviegoers and entertainment reporters missed out on a mighty fine performance by Jess Weixler.  She was definitely the First Lady of the Oval Orifice.  Dawn starts out as a lamb.  Will men turn her into a she-wolf?  That is the question.

I wonder if actor Michael Douglas has ever seen this movie.

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