The Scoop: 1993 R, directed by Stewart Main and Peter Wells starring Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Kevin Smith, and Lisa Chappell
Tagline: In The Game Of Love There Are No Rules
Summary Capsule: If a David Lynch movie and a very early Baz Luhrmann movie had a baby starring a woman who looks like reincarnated Maureen O’Hara with a cast full of New Zealand regulars, this’d be it.
Eunice’s Rating: It’s -It’s -Red. It’s got a lot of red in it…
Eunice’s Review: Dorothea, a high class dress maker, and her lover/employee Anne are set to have Dorothea make a marriage of convenience with a local politician named Poyser. Unfortunately Dorothea’s younger sister Rose is in love with a scoundrel named Fraser, a blackmailer who keeps her strung out on opium. So Dorothea hires Lawrence, a drifter sailor, to marry Rose and help get them all out of Fraser’s grip. And there’s a McGuffin of a handful of rubies floating through the plot.
This is one of the strangest dang movies I’ve ever seen. It has such a loose grip on anything resembling reality. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe. The best way I can think of to describe Desperate Remedies is it’s the kind of dream/nightmare you would have if you went to bed with a belly full of spicy food.
While the above is the technical storyline, what the movie is really about is how everyone is in love with Dorothea, lots of nakedness and sex scenes, strange yet interesting directing decisions and visuals (you will think ‘What?’ more than once), tons of the color red, and heaping spoonfuls of laughably over the top melodrama.
I don’t entirely remember how I found out about Desperate Remedies, I think it was Kevin Smith’s (he of Xena fame not Clerks fame) unfortunate and tragic death. I do remember when I found out about it, it had a small but devoted following that fell into two camps: People who believe it to be intentionally bad as a form of satire, and therefore good; or people who believe it’s unintentionally hilarious bad, and therefore so bad it’s good. I found myself intrigued, the only other movie I can think of with this kind of reaction is Johnny Guitar, I felt I must see this. And so I tracked down a copy, which turned out to be not as easy a task as I thought it would be at the time. What I ended up with was the most bizarre movie in my collection that didn’t come in a set.
Aside from a couple episodes of Hercules the Legendary Journeys and Xena Warrior Princess directed by Stewart Main, I’ve never seen anything else from the directors/writers, so I don’t know where this stands compared to their other stuff. There’s really not much you can explain with only words, kinda has to be seen because it defies, but I will highlight a couple things.
First thing I want to point out is how it is visually. Along with lots of red (I know it sounds like I’m harping on this, but I promise there is just that much red), there’s disorienting camera angles (think The Third Man) and a Dario Argento sense of color. The segues from scene to scene are jarring at best. It’s really anachronistic. [Example: I’m not exactly an expert on the time period, I admit, but I’m pretty sure upper crust pre-WWI opera did not involve wearing bondage gear] It almost revels in grotesque crassness, but everything is just so (I need a good word here) hypertrophied and tongue-in-cheek it’s like ‘I know what I’m being shown should be offensive, but it’s just too ridiculous.’
The other thing is everyone acts with the drama dialed up to eleven the whole movie. The facial expressions, the intonations, everything. The music is continually playing the high cue of a reveal THE WHOLE MOVIE. Jennifer Ward-Lealand plays it constantly tortured, Cliff Curtis is equally smarmy and magnetic (which is actually spot on), Michael Hurst is a pathetic bully, Kevin Smith is brooding, and Lisa Chappell is killer robot-y. Oh and Dorothea and Anna have a psychic link. Or something, I’m not clear on this… Like a million soap operas hopped up on Red Bull. On eleven.
I feel like I should say more, but in the confines of type written language I just can’t convey the off its rocker-ness of this movie. Desperate Remedies is topsy turvy, and everything is whoopsy daisy. It teeters on the edge of being bad, of being so bad it is good, or being subversively genius. I truly cannot decide if I like it or not.
- No relation to the Thomas Hardy novel
- During the fight, Fraser wears black pants and Lawrence wears white. Subtle.
- Time to play everyone’s favorite game – You Know That Guy! Kevin Smith (Lawrence) is of course best known from his TV work as Aries God of War (but I totally recommend the Lawless TV movie series). Michael Hurst (Poyser) is best known as Iolaus. Lisa Chappell (Anna) I remember best from McLeod’s Daughters. Cliff Curtis (Fraser) has been in, like, everything. Everyone, including Jennifer Ward-Lealand, has been in Hercules and Xena (New Zealand is only so big y’know)
- So much kink and kinky nudity.
- Wait, what just happened? My brain hurts.
Dorothea: I am nobody Mr. Hayes, but I do not intend to be nobody for long. It is too exhausting.
Lawrence: With all due respect, you appear to be somebody to me.
Lawrence: I take the liberty to follow my own thoughts.
Dorothea: I’m a believer in independence myself.
Poyser: You will have nothing! Be no one!
Dorothea: But myself!
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